Baird Private Wealth Management's recruiting spree might be nearing an end despite the firm's best intentions.

This year, Baird has hired 20 advisers, including three branch managers, bringing its head count to 668, from 600 at the end of 2008. Last month Baird attracted an eight-person team of advisers with more than $450 million in combined assets from Smith Barney in Lynchburg, Va., amid other key hirings.

"All businesses have goals, but we are very selective in the talent that we look to hire, so we focus more on that than on numbers," said Denise Wypiszenski, Baird's chief operating officer; she landed with Baird in November after being chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney's western division. "Our goal is to continue to attract quality individuals."

For Milwaukee-based Baird, the raid on advisers from wire houses is the new reality, reflecting, in part, the difficulties at the big wire houses. But some observers doubt Baird can continue expanding at its present pace.

"I think they're going to have less success this year because the negative press [for wire houses] has dissipated and the deals got bigger," said Mindy Diamond, the president of Diamond Consultants, an independent adviser recruiting firm in Chester, N.J.

"The person who looks to go to a regional firm," she said, "is the person who says, 'I want out of the wire houses, but I don't want to go independent.' "

Essentially, those who land in regional firms end up in "wire house-lite or independent-heavy. It's somewhere in between," Diamond said. "When there is such a big" price paid for talent, she said, "and things have largely quieted down in terms of negative press of the wire houses, I think people are going to pay attention to the" hirings.

Firms like Baird are attracting advisers in the sub-$700,000 range, she said. "Those are the ones who aren't feeling the love at the wire houses and aren't big enough to go out and create their own" registered investment advisory firm.

A plus for Baird, she said, is Wypiszenski. "Her presence gives it credibility," Diamond said. And Wypiszenski's background "certainly gives her an 'in' to the legacy Smith Barney folks."

Rich Schwarzkopf, an independent adviser headhunter in New York City, said that regional firms are adding 300 to 400 reps a year in some cases. "So they've exploded, and as more friends go over, they recommend the firms."

In fact, "referrals are key," Wypiszenski said, acknowledging that hirings come through her, the advisers and branch managers. Her goal is to get the word out about Baird's positives, like its seven years on Fortune's list of "100 Best Companies To Work For." She realizes that "talent that is looking for a new home," and she wants Baird to be the destination for top-performing advisers and managers.

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