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Baird names longtime RBC executive as vice chairman

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Baird has tapped a longtime RBC executive and former SIFMA chairman to join its leadership team, with hopes he will spur further growth for the firm.

John Taft, a former CEO of RBC’s U.S. wealth management unit, will serve as vice chairman at Baird, an 860-advisor firm that has grown in recent years due to recruiting and mergers.

"My role is to use my experience and connections and any other skills and capabilities I have to help Baird achieve their objectives, which really are to become a better version of what they already are," Taft tells On Wall Street.

Taft plans to focus on helping the company navigate "one of the most dynamic, change-filled" periods in financial services that he has ever seen, he says. His initial focus will be on Baird's wealth management business, helping to continue to develop advisor services and support and to recruit new teams into the firm.

"I can tell you that generally the priorities at Baird are the same as those of many of the leading wealth management firms — that's to continue to support advisors with the latest in technology, technological innovations with the right kind of products and services, with training, coaching, professional development — all of those things so that they can deliver the best experience for their clients and the best outcomes for their clients," he says.

Baird Private Wealth Management currently fields about 860 advisors across 93 offices in 30 states, with assets totaling $126 billion. Taft says that there is no plan in place with specific goals to move any one of those numbers, but that he expects advisor recruitment to be a major part of his new role.

"They are focused on quality, not quantity. So as far as I know, there aren't any advisor goals," he says.

"The key to the wealth management business is the quality of the advisor. So it's really a function of finding and talking to the best financial advisors," he adds. "That's one of the things that I'm going to be bringing to the table is identifying quality."

Taft says that while his initial focus will be on Baird's advisory business, he expects his role will expand over time to the firm's other business lines.

Taft, the great grandson of U.S. President William Howard Taft, comes to Baird with a deep résumé of more than three and a half decades of industry experience, including an 11-year stint as CEO of RBC Wealth Management. Taft also chaired the powerful industry trade group SIFMA, and most recently held a consulting role with Deloitte & Touche.

Taft will maintain offices at Baird's headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and at a branch in Edina, Minnesota, though with the firm's sprawling advisor footprint, he expects to be on the road a fair amount.

"I will be going to wherever I need to be," he says.

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