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Westrock, circumference join money managers list.

Stephens Inc. of Little Rock continues its dominance on two of this week's industry lists.

It remains the largest broker dealer operating in the state, and its two registered investment advisers have combined assets under management approaching $12 billion to dominate the money managers list.

Simmons First Trust Co. of Pine Bluff, the trust department of Simmons Bank, overtook Arvest Trust Co. of Lowell for the top spot on this week's list of the state's largest trust departments.

Notable additions to this year's money managers list are Westrock Asset Management and The Circumference Group, both of Little Rock.

Westrock is ranked No. 27 with assets under management of $110 million. That's the real figure, according to Chris Pledger, COO and general counsel of the company headed by former Alltel CEO Scott Ford.

The Form ADV that Westrock filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission in late March listed eye-popping assets of almost $1.1 billion. "I wish we had a billion dollars under management," Pledger said, calling the ADV "a little misleading."

Westrock Asset Management launched an investment fund in 2016 that invests mostly in futures contracts, Pledger said, and those contracts include "some inherent leverage" that inflates the value of the assets controlled by the firm.

Westrock is not like the traditional registered investment advisers on the list. Pledger said a better description would be "commodity trading adviser."

It is a hedge fund that is open to new investors, but they must be accredited and qualified as defined by the SEC, Pledger said.

The Circumference Group, ranked No. 30 with assets under management of $80 million as of its March ADV, is similarly restricted as to its investors, President John Haley said.

Circumference launched its Core Value Fund five years ago specifically to invest in the publicly traded stock of "technology-enabled business-to-business companies." The fund value hit $83 million at the end of July, Haley said.

While "a significant amount is money that belongs to the partners of the firm," Haley said, other accredited investors are also represented.

Circumference Group Core Value Fund is engaged in value investing in publicly traded technology-enabled business-to-business companies.

The trust departments of 35 banks and the state's only stand-alone trust company, Community First Trust of Hot Springs, are ranked this week by total trust assets under management as of Dec. 31.

Simmons, which has been on an acquisition spree, increased its total trust assets by more than 40 percent between the end of 2015 and the end of 2016.

The list of trust departments shrank by one as Farmers Bank & Trust Co. of Blytheville has shut down its trust operation.

By Gwen Moritz

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Title Annotation:OVERVIEW
Author:Moritz, Gwen
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 14, 2017
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