2012 Women at Baird Event Focuses on Taking the Right Risks

More Than 300 Attend the Annual Professional Development & Networking Event

MILWAUKEE, Nov. 5, 2012

Baird, an employee-owned, international wealth management, capital markets, private equity and asset management firm, recently held its annual female professional development and networking event. The 2012 Women at Baird event, hosted by the firm’s Women Associate Resource Group, focused on the theme Taking the Right Risks. About 330 Baird associates attended this year’s event at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Wis.

Nan Gardetto, the Founder and CEO of Baptista’s Bakery, opened the day-long event with a keynote address. Gardetto gave a moving account of her career, the sale of her family business to General Mills, and the creation of her new company. The conference also included panel discussions led by successful women professionals at Baird, as well as a panel of male leaders at the company. Rita Montgomery, a former Baird leader who left to become the executive director of an orphanage in South Africa, also spoke on the risks she took to pursue her dream. Participants attended breakout sessions on emotional intelligence, building personal brand through social media, and community involvement.

Throughout the event, a number of common themes emerged:

On Risk Taking: At a welcome dinner the night before the event, Baird Chairman, President & CEO Paul Purcell addressed the importance of appropriate risk taking –- both on the part of associates and the firm – when it comes to developing top talent. Said Purcell, “Sometimes getting better is hard. No pain no gain. Baird makes a promise to everyone we hire: our promise is that we will invest in you. For new associates we tell them it is a contract – we will make you as good as possible. But we need to be partners on that.”

One panel featured women who had taken risks to advance their careers. Judy Scott who joined Baird in 1980 in the Equity Research department and went on to become the firm’s highest revenue producing analyst ever, pioneered coverage of the temporary staffing industry -- a new sector at the time – and did it all while having a husband and three young children. One of Judy’s comments about taking risk was her story about having to downgrade a well-respected company and taking heat from the company’s management and investors: “It can be risky to be honest. But credibility is what you have. Sometimes things change or deteriorate and you have to force yourself to make a change, even if it makes some people very unhappy.”

In her keynote address, Nan Gardetto discussed the risks she took in some of the bigger decisions in her career, such as selling her family business. She said, “When we sold to General Mills, it was one of the toughest days of my life, but I learned a lot. I was fearful I had made the wrong decision. I was worried I would disappoint my family, customers and workers. I was numb with fear for loss and fear of the future. My fear also centered on the question of who am I if not the leader of a company? I had every emotion thrown at me that day – fear, joy, anger. The world turned upside down for a day, and then it was over. The world went on. And I had another epiphany: The things I feared weren’t as bad as the level of fear I had been living with.”

On Taking Control/Defining Your Career: Numerous conference speakers described the value of taking control and defining your career path. Baird’s Head of Equities Robert Venable addressed the risk involved in having open and honest career planning discussions, particularly in the financial services industry, which, on the whole, discourages that kind of thinking. According to Venable: “The key is to have these career discussions. Our industry conditions people to NOT have those conversations and tells them it will be detrimental to their career if they are honest about their career aspirations. It's not only OK to share your goals, but to everyone's advantage. Without it we can't keep good people in the firm.”

Gardetto also reiterated the need to take control. “Change signifies movement and it can be positive or negative depending on your attitude, which we control. The end result of positive movement is a destiny you’ve created as a willing participant – as an empowered person, a person who decided to create their life rather than let it create them.”

On Self Doubt: A number of the panelist raised the fact that doubt can cause making decisions difficult. Rita Montgomery, the Baird associate who left the firm to move to South Africa and serve as the Executive Director of an orphanage, addressed the inevitable self-doubt that occurs when taking a risk: “With any big decision, doubt creeps in. Just keep answering the tough questions and work it through.”

To schedule an interview with Baird and learn more about the Women at Baird event, contact Jody Lowe at (414) 322-9311 or jody@lowecom.com.

About Baird
Baird is an employee-owned, international wealth management, capital markets, private equity and asset management firm with offices in the United States, Europe and Asia. Established in 1919, Baird has more than 2,700 associates serving the needs of individual, corporate, institutional and municipal clients. Baird has nearly $97 billion in client assets. Committed to being a great place to work, Baird ranked No. 21 on FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2012 – its ninth consecutive year on the list. Baird’s principal operating subsidiaries are Robert W. Baird & Co. in the United States and Robert W. Baird Group Ltd. in Europe. Baird also has an operating subsidiary in Asia supporting Baird’s investment banking and private equity operations. For more information, please visit Baird’s Web site at rwbaird.com.
For additional information contact:
Jody Lowe