2020 Annual Report Discover the Baird Difference Enduring Culture, Extraordinary People

Composite photo featuring shots of Baird associates and Fortune logo
Composite photo featuring shots of Baird associates
Composite photo featuring shots of Baird associates
Composite photo featuring shots of Baird associates

A Message From Steve Booth

Our Chairman & CEO reflects on a year of challenges, change and growth.

Photograph of Steve Booth

Navigating Change, Together

2020 was an enormously challenging, fundamentally transformational year. The global pandemic, historic market volatility, and political and social unrest created an atmosphere of all-encompassing change. Despite the challenges, Baird held strong through the uncertainties. Our ballast point was, simply put, our commitment to our clients and putting their needs first. This steadfast focus not only guided us through the year – it’s been a cornerstone of how we do business since our founding in 1919.

We believe that the best outcomes follow from a clear focus on the needs of others. As an employee-owned, privately held firm, we’re able to focus squarely on the needs of those we serve. This creates a unique atmosphere at Baird and provides a strong foundation for our firm’s enduring culture of integrity, transparency and teamwork. These shared values attract extraordinary professionals to Baird and enable us to provide deep expertise, objective advice and outstanding service that make a genuine difference in the financial lives of our clients. We’ve come to call this powerful combination the Baird Difference, and we’re proud we were able to continue delivering it to our clients throughout the year.

Ultimately, it is our extraordinary team who guided our firm and our clients through 2020. While the vast majority of our more than 4,500 associates worked from home for much of the year, they maintained what makes Baird, Baird. Working together, they found innovative ways to support and connect with clients from afar, continue to celebrate life’s milestones together, and share the burden of difficult moments and the pain of loss. When it is safe once again, we look forward to welcoming these shared experiences back because they’re at the heart of how we stay connected with our clients and each other.

Our team’s commitment to our shared beliefs and unique culture enabled Baird to navigate 2020’s challenges so well and respond to opportunities that emerged along the way. Together, they create the culture that makes Baird a great place to work. In early 2021, we were honored to be recognized among the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®, ranking No. 32 in our 18th consecutive year on the list.

The Baird family also faced loss together in 2020. In February, we lost Paul Purcell – our former chairman and CEO, and one of the most influential figures in Baird’s history. Paul was a long-time, close friend of mine as well as many other associates across Baird. To honor his memory, leadership and passion for supporting education causes, we established the Paul Purcell “Kids Win!” Annual Baird Education Grant, which borrows one of Paul’s favorite sayings. We've raised more than $8 million for this fund, which will provide grants to deserving, education-oriented 501(c)3 organizations in 2021 and years to come.

2020 Results

Our team’s client focus and stronger-than-expected market conditions late in the year drove Baird’s very strong 2020 performance. We achieved our 11th consecutive year of record revenues, which totaled $2.33 billion at year end.1 Our operating income was approximately $360 million, also a new highwater mark for the firm. Additionally, our return on book value was 21.8%, including a cash dividend paid to shareholders in December and aided by significant cost savings from managing non-compensation expenses such as non-essential travel and in-person events.

These results were set in motion by our response to the early stages of the global pandemic. We effectively migrated to a largely work-from-home model in March and adjusted to a new normal for delivering advice and service to our clients. Our strategic, multiyear investment in the firm’s IT infrastructure and capabilities supported the quick-but-smooth transition to remote work. Our 2020 results also underscore the power of Baird’s balanced business platform. Our firm is composed of five complementary business units, all of which are supported by a suite of corporate resource groups. There is balance and diversity among our business units. The impact of market headwinds in one business is often offset by strength in one or more of the others. This is a deliberate structure we established long ago and its strategic value proved out in 2020. Here are a handful of business highlights from across the firm:

  • In addition to celebrating the first anniversary of our acquisition of Hilliard Lyons, Private Wealth Management posted record revenues. The acquisition and integration exceeded all expectations, and our fully integrated team oversaw more than $239 billion in client assets at year-end.
  • Our Asset Management teams had an incredible year. Baird Advisors, our fixed income asset management group, posted a record $25 billion increase in its assets under management and had more than $112 billion in assets under management at year-end – a result of continuing to deliver exceptional investment performance for clients across its line-up of taxable and tax-exempt mutual funds. Meanwhile, our Equity Asset Management business maintained its strong momentum.
  • Driven by strong sales and trading activity, our Fixed Income Capital Markets business performed exceptionally well and posted record revenues. Baird also ranked as the No. 1 municipal underwriter in the U.S. for the 12th consecutive year.2
  • In Equity Capital Markets groups, our Institutional Equities & Research and Strategas teams both achieved record years. Our Global Investment Banking group overcame significant headwinds in the M&A markets and completed 2020 with its second-best year ever.
  • Principal Investments posted record results. A rebound in market valuations and strong performance from its diversified portfolio of investments drove strong investment gains.
  • Each of our business units is supported by our best-in-the-industry Corporate Resource Groups, which were instrumental to our ability to maintain our client focus throughout 2020. 

This structure not only broadens our capabilities for our clients - it creates balance in our business.

Baird managed or oversaw more than $355 billion in client assets at the end of 2020 – an increase of more than 329% over the past decade.


Our stock value has increased 190% over the past 10 years.

1Financial results do not reflect the consolidation of certain private equity partnerships.
2Based on number of issues, according to Ipreo MuniAnalytics as of December 31, 2020.

Fostering a Culture for All

As an employee-owned, independent firm, we set our own direction. We determine what we do, who we are and who we want to become as an organization. Our mission statement, core beliefs and associate promise guide us every day. While our values define us and will always guide our firm, we know change isn’t optional. We can and must evolve to become better for our clients, our associates and our communities.

That mandate rang truer than ever in 2020, a year shaped by the persistent challenges of inequality, injustice and bias in our society. We are committed to fostering an environment where everyone matters and one that honors, values and celebrates the differences that make us unique. Our associates are at the heart of our firm’s long-time commitment to inclusion & diversity. The events of 2020 deepened our long-standing commitment to this vital cause. We held listening sessions with our associates of color in early summer. Their honest, raw feedback made it very clear to us that we needed to change our approach to drive more change, sooner, to ensure we keep our associate promise consistent for all who work at Baird.

We view our inclusion & diversity efforts as a journey, and one we all share. As a firm, we’ve made significant progress on our journey – but we know we have much more work to do. Our commitment to continuing to create an environment where everyone matters starts at the top. To help accelerate change across our firm, we formed a special task force, led by members of our Executive Committee, and councils within each of our business units and corporate resource groups to lead these efforts and drive change across Baird in the years ahead.

We’re confident that, working together, we can all effect positive change in the lives of those we serve and the lives of others in our communities. I am privileged to lead a remarkable team at Baird. They are proof that by committing to shared values and creating the best possible outcomes for our clients, we can transcend even the greatest challenges. With an enduring culture and extraordinary people, anything is possible.

All my best,

Steven G. Booth

Steve Booth
Chairman, President & CEO