How Argent’s Culture Guided Me into the Ideal Job

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Mark BankstonBy nature, I’m an analytical person. I like to build things. In fact, when I was growing up, I always thought I would be an engineer.

I’ve been in the financial services industry now for about 15 years. Initially, in college, I was a file clerk for Argent Trust Company, as entry-level as you can possibly get. When I returned to Argent in 2011, it was as a trust officer, where I managed relationships with clients and assisted them with financial planning and portfolio management.

I would describe my current role at Argent as somewhat IT-related, which is certainly not where I expected to be 15 years into my career. It certainly isn’t what my formal training focused on.  I’ve heard that nontraditional job paths like mine are becoming more commonplace among my millennial generation. But in my case, I wasn’t making an intentional effort to create an ideal job. I believe it was more a combination of timing, the culture of Argent and my own attitude.

The transition started a couple of years into my Argent career. My boss at the time had requested that I chair our investment committee. The investment committee handles oversight of our investment policies and procedures, as well as the general oversight of our investment management practices.

One specific role of this committee was to review the performance of our investment strategies. Our operations group, which was in charge of providing the performance reports, had made some changes that were problematic. As chair of the committee, I felt it was my responsibility to get involved to solve the problem. Because Argent has a culture in which employees are empowered to solve problems, I received nothing but support.

As a result of this experience, I became the internal expert on performance, so when the decision was made to implement several new software systems in a portion of the company in 2014, I was asked to lead the implementation of our performance and portfolio management system.

It soon became clear that accomplishing what was necessary would take a significant portion of my time. I convinced my bosses of the absolute need for this change and was allowed to do a 50/50 time split, where half of my responsibilities would be supporting investment teams from an operational perspective.

Over the last five years, Argent has been growing rapidly across the South through a series of mergers and acquisitions, leading to the question of how to seamlessly merge our core technology systems and operational processes.

In the fall of 2016, while still working about half of my time as a trust officer and half of my time supporting our portfolio management system needs, I was asked by our chief operating officer to co-chair an operational strategy committee. The objective of this committee was to determine the direction we would go regarding the software we would be using, as well as how our operations department would be structured.

Trust accounting software is a vital tool for a company like ours. It guides the integrity of data from clients and accounts for every penny they invest with us. In addition to the choice of a trust accounting system, we also evaluated solutions for portfolio management, reporting, client portal and performance reporting. It’s a necessity for a growing company like ours to have solid systems, because there is no room for error. It was a big deal to make sure we made the right decisions. In addition to the software decisions, we needed to decide if we would run back-office operations in-house, or outsource this service.

We ultimately decided that depending on an outside company to manage our back office operations was not the best solution for our clients. Bringing this job in-house was the obvious way to go, although it was going to take a tremendous amount of work to implement the conversion to our new software.

Once the decision was made to run operations in-house, a gentleman names David Sides was hired to run our operations department and I was asked to make a full-time switch to run an official Investment Operations department. David’s role has everything to do with running the trust accounting system and my role was to run all things related to the systems used for portfolio management, compliance, reporting, client portal and performance.

Though making the switch away from a client-facing role was initially challenging, I have greatly enjoyed managing these projects and feel it is something I am good at. It might connect back to my early interest in engineering — although I’m not designing a physical structure, I am building something with real importance for our company.

Right now, I’m in the process of continuing to build out an Investment Operations team to share my current workload, which will free me up to turn my attention to other areas where I think I can help the company improve.

I am very thankful to work for a company that has allowed me to grow as an individual and as an employee. I have worked for other firms that stick you in a box, and if you get out of your lane in any way, you get your hand slapped. While I fully understand the need for each employee to do the job they were hired to do, Argent has been very supportive of me being involved in other projects, as long as my core responsibilities were taken care of.

While my job title today is Investment Operations Manager, I am involved in many other items related to the overall operation of Argent. Basically, if I see a problem in the organization, I tend to get involved in identifying a solution. The way I see it, they’re never problems. They’re learning opportunities.


Argent Financial Group

Argent Financial Group (Argent) is a leading, independent, fiduciary wealth management firm. Responsible for more than $30 billion in client assets, Argent provides individuals, families, businesses and institutions with a broad range of wealth management services, including trust and estate administration, investment management, ESOPs, retirement plan consulting, funeral and cemetery trusts, charitable organization administration, oil and gas (mineral) management and other unique financial services. Headquartered in Ruston, Louisiana, Argent was formed in 1990 and traces its roots back to 1930.

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