MILWAUKEE, May 3, 2010
Paul Purcell, Chairman, President & CEO of Robert W. Baird & Co. (Baird), an employee-owned, international financial services firm, has never been more confident about Baird’s commitment to being a great place to work. That commitment helped the firm attract and retain talented individuals, focused on providing clients the best financial advice and service, despite the difficult environment. As Baird marks its seventh consecutive year on FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List® , Purcell reflects on why being a great place to work is a key strategic priority for Baird in good economic times and bad.
Q. Why is Baird committed to being a great place to work?
A. Being a great place to work helps us attract and retain the best people, which really is at the heart of our ability to offer our clients the best financial advice and service. That’s why our commitment to being a great place to work is a key strategic priority. It enables us to provide the expertise and continuity that our clients really appreciate, particularly in turbulent times like those we’ve experienced recently.
Q. How does Baird maintain its commitment to being a great place to work in the face of a difficult economy?
A. Our commitment to being a great employer is a long-term commitment, regardless of the economic environment. In fact, it’s especially important in challenging times. This commitment starts with our strong workplace culture, and includes perks such as flexible work arrangements and professional development opportunities.
We also have a couple of critical factors working in our favor, such as our tradition of conservative management and what I like to call our “fortress balance sheet,” which have allowed us to maintain our unique position of strength even during a tough economy. This year, we did just the opposite of what many other firms do in tough times: We invested in our business, adding new offices and expanding our capabilities through key hires. We’ve been strategically building for the future.
Q. You also continued to recruit through a challenging environment. Why?
A. 2009 was Baird’s best year ever in terms of recruiting top talent. The economic crisis forced many talented and experienced industry professionals to think long and hard about their futures in this industry. And fortunately, we were the beneficiaries. In the past year, we’ve added more veteran industry professionals than at any other time in our history. In fact, in 2009, we hired more than 70 senior-level professionals (senior vice president and above) across the firm. These professionals were attracted by our clients-first culture, the caliber and character of our associates, and our reputation as a great place to work. I’ve never been more confident about Baird’s strength relative to our competitors. This is a great time to be a privately held, independent firm that is owned by committed associates.
Q. How important is being employee owned?
A. Being employee owned is absolutely the right way to manage our business. Our interests are directly aligned with our clients. We’re not only protecting our clients, we are protecting ourselves and we hold ourselves accountable. It also creates a sense of partnership, both from having equity ownership throughout the firm and the fact that, whether a shareholder or not, every associate is a key stakeholder who benefits directly from the firm’s continued success.
Q. On the 2010 FORTUNE “100 Best Companies” list, Enter Baird was No. 5 among “the top ten companies where employees feel encouraged to balance their work and personal life.” How does Baird make employee flexibility work?
A. I’ve said before that I’d rather have an A player four days a week than a B player five. Our openness to flexible scheduling helps associates maintain a balance among home, work and community involvement, and means that we’re able to find and keep many great people as they navigate through the demands of life. It works because we structure teams to make sure our clients’ needs are always met. We take a very long view. An associate may start working a traditional schedule, transition to a flexible schedule, and later return to the original schedule. In the end, we’ve retained a great associate who now has many more years of experience and is an even stronger contributor to the firm’s success.
Q. How has being a great place to work paid off for Baird?
A. Companies with a commitment to being a great place to work outperform others. It means you have an environment where people love coming to work, they take pride in their work and they work together to achieve great outcomes for their clients and for the firm. With that equation, you can’t lose.
The numbers reflect this. Baird has a higher retention rate than many of our industry peers, and the stability of our senior management team is also highly unusual in our industry. The 14 members of our Executive Committee have an average tenure of 17 years at the firm. In addition, during an economic environment that forced many firms to retreat, we continued to add new talent. Since the beginning of 2008, Baird’s total employment has increased nearly 8 percent. Last year, our Private Wealth Management business had a record recruiting year, hiring 105 Financial Advisors, nearly double the 59 hired in 2008.
About Paul Purcell
Paul E. Purcell is Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Baird Holding Company, Baird Financial Corporation and Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated. Purcell joined Baird in 1994 and served in a variety of capacities, including Chief Operating Officer, before becoming President & Chief Executive Officer in 2000. He also became Chairman in 2006. Purcell is a member of the Baird Financial Corporation board of directors and Robert W. Baird & Co. board of directors. Prior to joining Baird, he spent 22 years with Kidder, Peabody & Co., where he was a Managing Director and head of the Midwest Investment Banking Group. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (1969) and received an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (1971). He also received the University of Chicago Booth School of Business 2009 Distinguished Corporate Alumni Award.
In addition to his duties at Baird, Paul Purcell is actively involved with the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School of Chicago, formerly serving as President of the school’s board of directors. He is also a former Vice Chairman and member of the board of directors of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). He also serves on the Alverno College board of trustees, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business Advisory Council, the University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business Advisory Council, the Dean’s Advisory Board at the Wisconsin School of Business, the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Lubar School of Business’ Advisory Council, the board of directors of RC2 Corporation and the Greater Milwaukee Committee board and executive committee.
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 2,400 associates serving the needs of individual, corporate, institutional and municipal clients. Baird oversees and manages client assets of more than $75 billion. 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 private equity operations.
For more information, please visit Baird’s Web site at www.rwbaird.com.
For additional information contact:
Baird Public Relations