Career Began: 1966
Home base: Washington, D.C.
Civic Affiliations: Washington National Cathedral, College of Preachers, St. Alban’s School and Beauvoir School
Colleagues joke that Chris Sargent has operated largely under the radar because he is gentle and modest. Yet the 68-year-old Sargent has been a million-dollar-producer for over 25 years and manages close to $1 billion — not that he would tell you so himself.
Sargent, a sixth-generation Washingtonian, doesn’t seek power. Power comes to him: corporate executives, Congressmen, Senators, litigators. They’re all part of this city’s signature — and, to some extent, Sargent’s own clientele.
The soft-spoken Sargent admits to a certain amount of humility. As he puts it: “Our field is full of people that are very aggressive Alpha types. I’m always amazed when someone is that aggressive. It’s just not the way I am. I guess I’m understated. I think it’s a better way to be. You don’t have to tell everyone up front you’re particularly good at something. Let them find out.”
Over the last 43 years, Sargent has indeed become “particularly good” at something: buying micro-, small- and mid-cap companies with clean balance sheets, talented management and promising futures.
“This is my passion. It’s searching for that stock that is going to the moon, searching for that great success story. It’s the hunt,” says Sargent, who manages money for 400 high-net-worth clients in offices next to the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington. “I’m not a trader. I’m investing for the long term. That’s really Nirvana for me — to find a stock you never have to sell.”
As a case in point, a client 20 years ago introduced Sargent to Telephone and Data Systems, a Chicago-based firm. The client had gone to school with the company’s CEO and was interested in investing in it. So Sargent hosted a luncheon in Washington for company management and invited clients of his who were familiar with the sector along with analysts from local money management firms. It was all part of the hunt — and a vetting process that is all-Sargent.
“I came away knowing 20 times what I knew before. To me, management is 90 percent of the game. That stock is still going up today, and it’s up 30 to 40 times in value. We still own it,” he says. “It’s a process that has played out many times over the course of a career.”
Sargent got a taste for investment research in the 1960s when he interned in the research department of a regional brokerage, Auchincloss, Parker and Redpath, during two summers when he was in college.