Argent's John Meara Puts Focus on Service; Five Questions; Capital Management Firm, Founded Here in 1998, Is Adding Employees

Article excerpt

When John Meara and Steven Finerty co-founded investment firm Argent Capital Management in 1998, the dot-com bubble hadn't burst yet. Clients were clamoring for more tech stocks.

But Meara, president and chief investment officer at Clayton- based Argent, stuck with his investment philosophy, which included focusing on large companies in diverse industries and with equity market capitalizations of $3 billion or more. This minimized losses when the bubble finally burst.

That early success helped Argent grow to more than $1.7 billion under management and more than 600 clients, which include individual investors and institutional investors such as pension funds and foundations. In 2008, Argent branched out to include investments in companies that had market capitalizations below $3 billion.

Meara, who graduated with degree in finance from the University of Missouri-Columbia, has had his investing acumen spotlighted nationally. In the early 2000s, he was part of an investment team that won the Wall Street Journal's stock-picking contest, the Investment Dartboard, three consecutive times the only team to claim that feat.

- What drove you to open Argent in St. Louis?

I was working in Minneapolis as an equity analyst for American Express Financial Advisors. Family brought me back. My mother-in- law became ill in 1997, and my wife is a nurse, so we moved back. I didn't have a job.

I worked for Commerce Bank for a while, and I was talking to a friend about the company I wanted to start. He told me about Steven Finerty, and how he wanted to do the same thing. We started talking about it in July 1998 and opened in September. There wasn't anything like it here. We knew we could attract well-paid jobs, and why not in St. …