Stephens Twice the Size of Any Brokerage Firm in State

Stephens Inc., with 362 licensed agents in Arkansas and 30 more outside the state, is by far the largest broker-dealer firm in the state.

Stephens closed its office in New Orleans in the past year, but the firm still has offices in Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and London. In-state, Stephens added locations in Conway and Hot Springs in the past year, in addition to the existing offices in Little Rock and Fayetteville.

St. Louis-based A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., with 20 offices in Arkansas, is the second largest brokerage firm in the state with 140 agents. Two other investment businesses — Merrill Lynch and Edward D. Jones & Co. — each has 115 agents in Arkansas. In the case of Edward D. Jones, that means 115 one-man offices.

Three firms were added to this year’s list — Oppenheim, a division of BOSC Inc.; Prudential Securities Inc.; and Regions Investments Inc.

NationsBanc Investments Inc., now known as Bank of America Investments, dropped off the list. Its number of agents in Arkansas fell from 21 last year to only nine this year.

The biggest percentage growth in the state came at Arvest Asset Management of Rogers, which increased 120 percent from 21 to 46 agents. The growth, in part, can be attributed to the growth at Arvest Bank Group Inc., says Rhonda Townsley, marketing manager at Arvest Asset Management.

“It’s natural that as Arvest Bank Group grows and adds locations, we also add client-advisers in those locations,” Townsley says.

Arvest Asset Management also has combined the trust, insurance and investment divisions.

Y2K Compliant

St. Bernard Financial Services Inc. of Russellville, which has 28 agents in 20 offices in the state, won an award this year from the National Association of Securities Dealers for having the best Y2K compliance program in the country for small firms.

The NASD flew Robert Keenan, president of St. Bernard, to a national conference in New Orleans in May to make a presentation of his plan. It went over so well there, Keenan says, the NASD flew him to Washington, D.C., to present it there, Keenan says.

“I was one of the few people who didn’t just look at whether the computer would work [on Jan. 1, 2000], but I also looked at what would happen if the electricity didn’t work or the phones or the security system didn’t work,” Keenan says.

Keenan used a very common-sense approach. He pointed out how St. Bernard could shift to another clearinghouse if its current provider is not Y2K compliant by Nov. 1. St. Bernard’s computers and software are so new that Keenan doesn’t expect any Y2K problems, but if something comes up, he said the company could buy new computers or software in January. St. Bernard already has a backup because it keeps paper copies of all transactions.

Keenan also used a light-hearted approach in his presentation.

For instance, in predicting the ramifications of a breakdown in St. Bernard’s telephone system, Keenan said, “Because the legal industry is drooling over the potential fees from Y2K-related lawsuits, we are quite comfortable that the phones will work. If they don’t, not only will we be unable to place calls but clients and vendors will be unable to place calls to us. If this were to happen, we are quite sure that client’s accounts will be far down on their list of concerns.”

Likewise, noting that Jan. 3 is the first business day of 2000, Keenan said if electricity is off after two days “clients will not have their security accounts at the top of their list.”

And, in doing other checks required by the NASD, Keenan said if elevators weren’t working, it wouldn’t be a problem for his firm since their are no elevators in his office. He added, “We have stairs — our legs are compliant.”

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