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Wealth management firm makes headlines of its own

CLOQUET, Minn. -- Want national attention for your company? It wouldn't be a bad idea to follow the example of Split Rock Private Trading, a company with offices in Cloquet and Duluth that managed to gain national exposure on the Fox Business web...

Brian Michaud, Mark Cool and Tyler Kocon pause in front of a donkey pump
Brian Michaud, Mark Cool and Tyler Kocon pause in front of a donkey pump in Palermo, N.D. Submitted photo

CLOQUET, Minn. -- Want national attention for your company?

It wouldn't be a bad idea to follow the example of Split Rock Private Trading, a company with offices in Cloquet and Duluth that managed to gain national exposure on the Fox Business website with a story about the company's recent visit to the North Dakota oil fields and the companies they invest in there.

Here's the Split Rock recipe for free publicity:

• Go on a road trip.

• Take lots of photos

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• Write a story about it on your way home.

It helped, of course, that Split Rock works with a couple of different media outlets that want it to submit stories and then passes them along. It also helped that the company had an interesting tale to tell, particularly in the world of private trading and wealth management.

Traffic to Split Rock's website quadrupled after the story ran.

"Our North Dakota portfolio has garnered a lot of national interest, which has translated into some new business," Split Rock co-founder and portfolio manager Tyler Kocon explained, noting that the "Bakken & US Energy Shale SMA" is one of four portfolios managed by the company. "We're seeing people visiting our website from around the world."

North Dakota, once a sleepy backwater of the petroleum industry, surpassed Alaska in 2012 as the No. 2 oil producer in the United States. According to an article in National Geographic magazine, thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, "the gush of North Dakota crude has helped lift U.S. oil production to its highest level in 14 years, and has the United States on track to regain its spot as the world's top energy producer within five years."

Split Rock's story "In the Oil Patch" combines whimsical descriptions and the macho persona of the oil fields to dig under the surface of the riches coming out of North Dakota.

Here it is in the company's own words, as penned by research analyst Brian Michaud, a recent University of Minnesota graduate from St. Michael, Minn., who interned with the company and stayed on to make his mark:

"For the better part of two years, we have spent nearly every waking hour developing and producing an investment thesis surrounding the activity taking place in the Williston Basin," Michaud wrote, after a lead paragraph describing the voyage through nearly uninhabited stretches of prairie land to get to the "epicenter of the Bakken Shale revolution."

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"From the moment the switch was flipped, and the realization of the true potential of what is taking place in the center of the Continent came full circle, the Bakken and related unconventional shale formations have been a passion of ours. With fervor and dedication, we have tried to hone our craft and tailor our portfolios to capture the full effect of the revolution the Bakken has influenced. But even after countless research reports, market publications, assorted online articles and due diligence with local operators, there is absolutely nothing on Earth that can compare with seeing it with our own eyes.

"So that's what we did. Rather than sit behind a cushy desk in an air conditioned office, we put rubber to road and traveled to the heart of the Bakken oil boom to experience it for ourselves. We wanted to get our hands dirty. We wanted to feel the essence, to see it firsthand. We wanted to talk with the men and women who make it all so real. We knew that in order to develop the best investment strategy possible, we had to dig deep and understand this business from the ground up; that all starts in the patch."

Split Rock co-founder and portfolio manager Mark Cool said oil activity in the Bakken is crazy.

"We've been managing that portfolio almost two years now, so we're pretty comfortable with it," Cool said. "But to go out there and see everything -- it's amazing. It's a boring drive, but then you start to see more and more semis and other work vehicles to the point where it's almost a constant work zone. Then it hits you, all the activity, and you understand why people are so excited."

Kocon explained that Split Rock's North Dakota portfolio is also marketed by other investment companies.

"That allows us to gain scale and manage more money," Kocon said. "There could be someone sitting at a desk in New York City that recommended this fund and the money ends up here and we manage it.

"I think (having the story run on Fox Business) will give us a lot of traction on the distribution side -- with other firms that offer our portfolio."

About Split Rock

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Split Rock Private Trading, a private trading and wealth management firm, was formed almost four years ago by investment brokers Mark Cool and Tyler Kocon, joined by 30-year industry veteran Kelly Johnson and, ultimately, research analyst Brian Michaud. The company has offices in Duluth and Cloquet. Unlike many other firms, Split Rock has no ties to, nor receives any commissions or compensation from, any broker, banking institution or insurance company.

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