The turmoil in the economy over the last few years has sent financial advisors scurrying for greener pastures and Baird has benefited as quality talent has flocked to the firm.
Last week, the employee-owned international wealth management firm announced it hired 30-year veteran William H. Sewell as a senior vice president to open a new wealth management office in Raleigh, N.C. He relocated to Raleigh in 1993, where he was branch manager at Smith Barney. He is the sixth Morgan Stanley Smith Barney branch manager hired by Baird in 2010.
While the new office is a sign of Baird’s hunger for opportunities for expansion, John Mabee, a regional director for Baird’s private wealth management group, said in a phone interview that the Milwaukee-based company is looking to grow, but only “under the right circumstances.”
“We have got to be careful we don’t grow too quickly,” he said. “We want to make sure we digest and make sure the experience of the people coming over is a good experience. We’re not growing just for growth’s sake. With all the opportunities presenting themselves right now we just have to be very cognizant of doing it correctly.”
The opportunities Baird is seeing comes from the flood of advisors, who, prior to the economic crisis, would never have thought about leaving the wirehouses where they worked, but as a result of the meltdown are looking for a fresh start.
While Baird doesn’t “have any great expansion goals,” explained Mabee, it doesn’t want to pass up opportunities for superb talent. With so many great advisors looking for a home after the turmoil of the last couple years, Baird doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines.
“It’s all about leadership,” Mabee said. “We have found some extremely talented managers that want to get back to the regional firms and really like the culture of Baird. So if we find the right manager we will build the office around them.”
Baird’s appeal, according to Mabee, is the fact that it is employee-owned, privately held, and managed differently: “We have our own money at stake.” While some have said that Baird seems to be looking to swipe Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s advisors, Mabee denied there was any targeted recruitment.
“When someone comes over to Baird they’ll refer other people they think will fit the Baird model so it’s common to have several employees from the same firmm” he said.
Many advisors who have worked at regional firms that got bought by wirehouses have told Mabee they would like to go back to work for a regional. The reason: Access and a chance to make a difference.
“Advisors have access to the regional president of private wealth management and hey can talk to our bankers and our analysts,” he said. “The firm is much more responsive. Ultimately, advisors are more than just a number and they can make a difference working for a firm of Baird’s size.”
Size doesn’t only matter for advisors, but for clients as well, Mabee said. “By keeping the firm small the products and services at a regional are as good as any and we can do a better job for our clients,” he said.
In the meantime, Baird continues to grow. Baird added more than 100 financial advisors to its private wealth management group last year, and 24 financial advisors and branch managers since the beginning of this year.
In addition to Baird’s Raleigh office, it opened an office in October in Winston-Salem and plans to open another office in Charlotte, which it announced in December. An office in Lynchburg, Va., opened last year, along with an office in San Francisco this year. There are also plans to open other offices in St. Paul, Minn., Portland, Ore., Denver, Sacramento, Baltimore and Easton, Md.