Woes on Wall Street Confound List of Money Managers

(To see the list of the top money managers in Arkansas, click here. A spreadsheet version is available here.)

Stephens Capital Management, a division of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, is undoubtedly and decisively the largest registered investment adviser in the state.

There's also a good chance that its assets under management are in the neighborhood of $2.9 billion, since that's what it reported to the Securities & Exchange Commission on Oct. 10.

But widespread losses in the stock market in the last few months mean that the assets under management figures used to rank many of the registered investment managers on Arkansas Business' annual list of the state's largest money managers may be functionally obsolete.

The list uses data from the companies' ADV forms filed with the SEC, which registered investment advisers file pretty much whenever they want. Most do it about once a year.

Money managers that hadn't filed with the SEC in the past 15 months were omitted from the list. The ones that were included filed as long ago as October 2007 (No. 51, Leiblong & Associates Inc. of Little Rock) and as recently as Oct. 27 (No. 23, Hutchinson Financial Inc. of Little Rock). The filing date is listed for each advisory firm.

The list includes 53 Arkansas-based investment advisers whose ADVs disclose assets under management of more than $1 million. Some, especially Leiblong & Associates, also reported significant assets in private funds.

Top 10

The 53 firms on the list claimed total assets under management of $9.71 billion as of their most recent ADV filings. Stephens Capital Management represented 30 percent of that total, and its separately listed mutual fund division, No. 5 Stephens Investment Management Group LLC, claimed another 4 percent.

The latter was created in 2005, when Stephens Capital hired the team responsible for AIM Investments of Houston's Small Cap Growth Fund.

Stephens Capital's assets under management increased about 2.3 percent between October 2007 and October 2008, while Stephens Investment Management Group's total grew by more than 37 percent.

In between are:

• Foundation Resource Management Inc. of Little Rock with $1.5 billion as of March, an increase of 27 percent since December 2006;

• Arvest Asset Management of Lowell with $648.6 million as of July, up 23 percent since September 2007; and

• Forest Hill Capital Inc. of Little Rock with $403 million as of March, down 6 percent from a year earlier.

While the top five remained in the same order as last year, there was some jockeying for position in the next five. Sowell Management Services of North Little Rock, led by William C. Sowell, jumped over Ifrah Financial Services and Smith Capital Management, both of Little Rock, to take the No. 6 position.

Sowell Management had $317.4 million under management as of January 2008, up from $260.1 million in January 2007.

That doesn't mean Ifrah and Smith faltered. Ifrah, which made a high-profile split from No. 23 Hutchinson Financial Inc. of Little Rock in January 2006, increased its assets under management by about 1.5 percent between February 2007 and February 2008, while Smith Capital grew by almost 7 percent between March 2007 and October 2008.

Reprising their roles as Nos. 9 and 10 are Meridian Investment Advisors and Lathrop Investment Management, both of Little Rock. Meridian's assets under management were up 3.3 percent between March 2007 and September 2008. Lathrop reported asset growth of 8 percent between March 2007 and February 2008.