New Stephens Entity Shakes Up List of Money Managers

(To see the list of Arkansas' largest money managers, click on the appropriate page number: 1 2 3. A spreadsheet version is also available.)

(To see the largest broker dealers, click here. A spreadsheet version is available here.)

Stephens Inc. of Little Rock remains, by far, the largest broker dealer in Arkansas, and its Stephens Capital Management division is still the state's largest registered investment adviser.

Stephens Inc.'s 295 registered stockbrokers in Arkansas leave Edward Jones, with 168, as a distant second among stock brokerages. Still, Stephens has 10 fewer brokers on staff than it had when the same research was conducted in November 2006.

Stephens Capital Management's assets under management, as reported to the Securities & Exchange Commission on Oct. 30, was down by almost 10 percent from a year earlier - from $3.17 billion to $2.85 billion. But a new Stephens entity has entered the list and nearly makes up the difference: No. 5 Stephens Investment Management Group LLC.

SIMG is the mutual fund division of Stephens Capital Management, according to EVP Warren Simpson. It was created in 2005, when Simpson hired away the team responsible for AIM Investments of Houston's Small Cap Growth Fund. As of Sept. 20, when its Form ADV was filed, SIMG had almost $285 million in assets under management. The combined assets under management of Stephens Capital Management and SIMG, then, are almost $3.14 billion.

That number rises to more than $3.9 billion if the total includes the assets in 401(k) plans sold to larger clients for management by Diversified Investment Advisors of Purchase, N.Y., according to Simpson and Stephens' spokesman Frank Thomas. Smaller 401(k) plans are managed in-house, Simpson said.

The second-largest money manager in the state is Foundation Resource Management Inc. of Little Rock, which specializes in investment management for insurance companies, charitable foundations, hospitals, retirement plans and some very high net-worth individuals. Its assets grew by almost $140 million to $1.19 billion during 2006, but they are divided among only 96 accounts. Foundation Resource Management's Form ADV was filed on Dec. 31, 2006, making it one of the stalest figures on the list. ADVs that are more than 15 months old are excluded from the Arkansas Business list.

The biggest mover on the list of money managers is Arvest Asset Management of Rogers, part of Walton-owned Arvest Bank Group Inc. of Bentonville. Arvest Asset Management rose from No. 11 last year, when its assets under management were a mere $153.4 million, to No. 3 this year with $525.6 million.

Arvest's ascent bumped Forest Hill Capital Inc. of Little Rock to No. 4 despite the fact that its assets under management grew by 16 percent in a mere seven months (between August 2006 and March 2007).

The rancorous split in early 2006 of the Little Rock firm known as Hutchinson/Ifrah seems to have settled. The two resulting firms, Ifrah Financial Services Inc. and Hutchinson Financial Inc., both reported respectable growth. Ifrah's assets were up 5 percent between September 2006 and February 2007, although Arvest Assets Management and Stephens Investment Management Group bumped it from No. 4 to No. 6 on the list. Hutchinson Financial's assets grew more than 3 percent between August and May.

Argenta Wealth Management (aka Gaudin & Associates Inc.) reported an asset gain of about 13 percent between August 2006 and January 2007, when its most recent ADV was filed. That moved the firm headed by John Gaudin to No. 18, ahead of Hutchinson on the list of money managers.

As reported in last week's "Whispers" column, Thomas McCain has been hired to lead Waschka Capital Investments, which Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock acquired after the death of founder Larry Waschka in November 2004. McCain, until recently president of Veriplas, Mountain Valley Spring Co.'s plastic container division, replaces Thomas J. Carlson, who joined Wells Fargo in Minneapolis.