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Baird Growing Revenues at 12.5% Annual Clip

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Milwaukee-based Baird says it has recruited close to 250 advisors over the past two years or so, and its veteran reps have been boosting average fees and commissions by about 12.5% in 2010 and 2011, putting its year-over-year performance ahead of some larger rivals.

The employee-owned broker-dealer now includes about 700 financial advisors, says Matthew Curley, national sales director and COO of Baird’s private-wealth management operations. “We’ve just wrapped up another good year in terms of recruiting veteran advisors — not just high-quality people and teams, but also very successful advisors in terms of their production level,” he said in a recent interview.

Baird added nine financial advisors in the first seven weeks of 2012, after bringing on 65 reps and three branch managers in 2011. “The hires in 2011 were just shy of about $600,000 in average production,” noted Curley, a former Smith Barney advisor. “We’ve been doing a great job at recruiting.”

As for assets under management, the Baird advisors were at about $97 million per rep in late 2011 and should be above that in early 2012, given current market conditions, says Curley. “The top 25% of our advisors are over $100 million in average assets,” he said.

As for the performance of the roughly 600 advisors who’ve been with Baird for over a year (or same-store reps), they have grown their yearly fees and commissions at 12.5% in both 2010 and 2011 “despite the challenging markets,” the executive said. “We’ve embarked on programs to support advisors in growing their business and clients.”

Baird’s attractiveness, he explained, “comes down to our unique structure: We’re not a regional, wirehouse or privately held. We’re somewhat in between, since we’re owned by our associates. We can make the right long-term decisions, which resonates with clients, and for our associates, the structure gives them a wealth-building opportunity.”

Recent recruits have been tapped in Sarasota, Fla.; Boulder, Colo.; and Raleigh, N.C. “We’re off to a good start this year,” Curley said.  

Baird’s recruiting package includes “an upfront payment as well as bonuses based on certain factors as advisors transition,” he noted. “We point to the overall wealth opportunities for advisors, such as Baird stock and the attractive compensation and profit-sharing program.”

Still, there’s lots of competition for wirehouse and other advisors, including pressure from firms such as RBC and Barclays Wealth, which are affiliated with large global banks. How does Baird position itself against such rivals?

“We have all the capability of larger firms, but access to people and their active interest in the advisor’s success,” said Curley. “This is one of our differentiators.”

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One recent program Baird has launched for FAs focuses on performance coaching and best practices in cooperation with CEG Worldwide. The firm pays half the cost of the coaching and reimburses advisors for all of it if they meet certain targets.

Advisors are also given exposure to best practices at the firm’s national summits, held last year at three different locations. “We have panels with top-advisor teams that share what’s worked for them and client-success stories, for instance,” Curley said. “Advisors often learn the most from their peers, and we want to create an environment to share what is working for them.”

This year, Baird aims to hire another 65 reps. It is also expanding a program for reps to become Chartered Private Wealth Advisors through a partnership with the University of Chicago.

“When it comes to recruiting, we can’t emphasize enough the uniqueness of our story, which resonates with advisors coming from larger firms and who tell us they cannot justify leaving their current firm in order to go to another large firm,” Curley said.

“They want something different, and there are not a lot of options,” he noted. “And there is no other option like Baird. We’ve been around for 90-plus years, are based on Midwest values and offer tremendous wealth-building opportunities.”

He admits that the firm isn’t for everyone, especially those reps looking for larger upfront packages. “Those coming to Baird come for all the right reasons,” Curley said.

In early March, Baird said it hired former Morgan Stanley Smith Barney branch manager Mark T. Stevanovic to open a wealth-management office in Portland, Maine. This will be Baird’s first branch in the state.

Stevanovic, a non-producing manager, previously oversaw about 50 financial advisors in Portland and Bangor, Maine. 

“Baird has it all, from a clients-first culture and entrepreneurial business environment to a wealth of products and services comparable to any wirehouse,” Stevanovic said, in a statement. •