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Providence and Sigma Nu serve as Foundation of Kyle McDonald’s Business and Life Decisions

As founder and chief executive officer of Argent Financial Group, Kyle McDonald (Louisiana Tech) oversees a fiduciary empire, making decisions on a daily basis that impact his employees, the company, and ultimately the wealth management and growth of the companies and individuals he serves.

McDonald founded Argent Financial in 1990 in Ruston, La., as a wealth management firm providing a portfolio of services to its clients, including trust and estate planning, investment and wealth management, and special needs trusts.

Under his leadership, the company has grown from a single site in Ruston to 35 markets across 12 southern states, employing over 330 professionals responsible for more than $40 billion in assets and three million mineral acres.

Looking back over decades of accolades and accomplishments, McDonald says his life’s journey – professionally and personally – began with a single decision he made years ago as a freshman at Louisiana Tech University.

“Most of what I am about as an adult I trace back to the decision to pledge Sigma Nu’s Eta Zeta chapter at Louisiana Tech,” said McDonald, who pledged Sigma Nu in 1977.

An Early Mindset for Business

McDonald grew up in Ruston in rural northwest Louisiana, the son of a dairy farmer and the principal of the high school he attended. The foundation his parents built taught him the value of hard work, a life of purpose, and being a servant leader inspiring others to greater heights.

When asked to describe himself in three words, McDonald quickly says,“ humble, confident, and committed.” He says the culture he strives to instill at Argent is one of “humble confidence.”

“We have to humble ourselves to serve others, yet we must be confident in our competencies to provide valued services,” McDonald explains.

His interest in the world of business and finance began in his teens. “I was introduced to business through a high school teacher who was the sponsor of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America),” McDonald said. “That led to a job at a local bank during summers and breaks from college.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance, he went on to earn his law degree from Louisiana State University (LSU).

“While my family didn’t have much occasion to utilize attorneys, it seemed like a good degree and occupation,” McDonald says of his decision to pursue law.

He worked as a law clerk for the Louisiana Bankers Association while in law school, which led to an associate’s position at a prominent Baton Rouge law firm. McDonald initially focused on providing legal services for bank merger activities, which aligned with his law school focus.

At the time, the Louisiana economy was directly tied to oil and gas activities. When oil prices plunged to below $9 a barrel in the mid-1980s, so did the work in bank merger activities. McDonald was reassigned to commercial loans.

A few months after law school graduation, while still working in commercial loans, he received a phone call that changed his career trajectory. The president of Ruston State Bank asked if McDonald was interested in moving back to Ruston to restart the bank’s trust department.

“My response was, ‘So I would work with people who have money because that is not what I am doing now!’” said McDonald, laughing at the memory of the phone call that changed his life.

Providence and a Path to Leadership

The call from RSB came one day after a men’s church retreat McDonald had attended, where the group discussed where they saw themselves at age 65.

“Even though I was practicing law in Baton Rouge, I blurted out that I expected to be retiring from a bank in Ruston,” said McDonald, who has four adult children with his wife of 40 years, Tisdale, and eight grandchildren.

When the phone call from RSB came the next day, McDonald knew what he was destined to do.

“It was providence,” he said of his decision to take the job. “And I’ve never had another set of circumstances like that, so I’ve just kept putting one foot in front of the other since then.”

Each step placed him closer to where he wanted to be. At RSB, McDonald may have been a young trust officer among older, more experienced colleagues, but he had drive, vision, and a passion to serve.

In 1989, McDonald had been an officer in the RSB Trust Department for just a few years when he wrote a memo to all staff imploring them that if the company “elects to provide any service, it must be provided excellently.”

The following year, The Trust Company of Louisiana was formed out of the RSB Trust Department. The next year – just two years after he wrote the memo -- McDonald led the purchase of that company, known today as Argent Financial Group.

“I am very independent-minded and ambitious,” he said of his decision to form Argent Financial. “I like leading…and the combination of starting something unique and charting a course for my work life was compelling.”

He changed the name from The Trust Company of Louisiana to Argent Financial Group to create a unique identity with expanded services. McDonald also wanted to honor the company’s Louisiana French heritage. He chose “Argent,” which means “silver” in French but also has other meanings.

McDonald asked a local French teacher to define “argent,” and she responded with a lengthy-phrase ending with the word “argent.”

“I told her, ‘I don’t speak French, so please interpret,’” he said. “And her response was ‘show me the money’!”

The Roots in Sigma Nu

McDonald was not a Greek legacy. He was the first in his family to join a fraternity and only went through rush on the advice of a neighbor.

“I can still remember making that decision on Bid Day,” McDonald said, recalling a memory from more than four decades ago.

He remains close to many of his chapter brothers – three of whom work for Argent – and he gets together frequently with his chapter brothers for fishing and hunting trips. Two sons-in-law are also Sigma Nus.

“My chapter provided me with lifelong friends, an opportunity to learn about leadership, introduced me to my wife, Tisdale, helped me develop my faith, and taught me about my responsibility to others,” said McDonald of his lifelong connection to Sigma Nu.

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