In recent months, Baird Private Wealth Management has been on a recruiting spree and there are no signs that it plans to let up.

Consider this list: In January, it hired Charles Singer, a 25-year veteran of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney [MS], to run Baird’s Indianapolis office; James Carideo of Smith Barney’s Los Angeles office was hired by Baird for its Tampa, Fla., office; Dennis Rowland, a Smith Barney branch manager, was hired to open a new Baird office in St. Paul. Last month Baird attracted an eight-person team of advisors with more than $450 million in combined assets from Smith Barney in Lynchburg, Va.

The run on advisors from wirehouses is the new reality for Milwaukee-based Baird. The new hires reflect, in part, the difficulties at the major wirehouses as well as Baird’s hiring last November of Denise Wypiszenski as its chief operating officer. She was the chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s western division.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Wypiszenski said, “more people are realizing the story and the potential of Baird.”

After 17 years with Smith Barney, Wypiszenski has landed in a firm with Midwestern values that is looking to expand its reach.

This year, Baird has hired 20 advisors, including three branch managers, bringing its headcount to 668 from 659 as of Dec. 31, and 600 at the end of 2008.

It also opened seven wealth management offices this year in Baltimore, Charlotte and Winston-Salem, Denver, Lynchburg, Va., Easton, Md. and Grass Valley.

According to Baird Private Wealth Management’s website, it added nearly 100 financial advisors last year. “All businesses have goals but we are very selective in the talent than we look to hire so we focus more on that than on numbers,” Wypiszenski said. “Our goal is to continue to attract quality individuals.”

But will that success seen last year and in the first few months of 2010 continue? Mindy Diamond, president of Diamond Consultants, an independent advisor recruiting firm based in Chester, N.J., isn’t so sure.

“I think they’re going to have less success this year because the negative press [directed at wirehouses] has dissipated and the deals got bigger,” she said. “The person who looks to go to a regional firm is the person who says ‘I want out of the wirehouses but I don’t want to go independent.’”

Essentially, those who land at a regional firm end up at an entity that is “wirehouse-lite or independent-heavy. It’s somewhere in between,” Diamond said. “When there is such a big delta in the deal, and things have largely quieted down in terms of negative press of the wirehouses, I think people are going to pay attention to the deals.”

Firms like Baird are attracting advisors in the sub-$700,000 range, Diamond said. “Those are the ones who aren’t feeling the love at the wirehouses and aren’t big enough to go out and create their own [registered investment advisory firm].”

But one plus that Baird does have, Diamond said is Wypiszenski. “Her presence gives it credibility,” Diamond said.

And, Wypiszenski’s years with her prior firm “certainly gives her an ‘in’ to the legacy Smith Barney folks,” Diamond said.

 “She probably has a pipeline,” Diamond said.

What’s more, there is the connection to branch managers who come with their own pipelines as well, Diamond said. 

Still, Rich Schwarzkopf, an independent advisor headhunter in New York City, doesn’t think Baird is any more attractive than other regional firms such as Stifel Nicolaus or Janney Montgomery Scott.

“These are their golden years right now,” he said. “The last one or two years are the best recruiting years in all their existence. The brokers are fed up with the wirehouses. The deals are not like the wirehouses but then, [regional firms] will take people below $400,000.”

Regional firms, Schwarzkopf said, 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 they come through her, the advisors and the branch managers. Her goal is to get the word out about the positive attributes of a firm that now boasts seven years on Fortune magazine’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 place for top-performing advisors and managers.

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