Meet Baird’s Leaders: Laura Thurow
Executive Director of Wealth Solutions and Operations
Click on the questions to read the responses in Laura's own words.
- How did your career path lead you to Baird Private Wealth Management?
"I've always been a 'numbers person' and had an interest in the analytical side of investing. That led me to a bachelor’s degree in economics from Trinity College and then an internship with Baird’s institutional equity research team, which turned into a full-time role. Five years later, I had an opportunity to build up an investment research program on the retail side, and I’ve been in Baird Private Wealth Management ever since.
"The funny things is, as much as I enjoy parsing data and building financial models, it turns out it’s the relational aspect of the business, the long-lasting connections I’ve built with teammates and advisors, that I find the most fulfilling. After years of training as a financial analyst, I never would have predicted I’d be focusing on organizational development and figuring how people and teams work best together."
- Since joining PWM, what changes have you seen within the wealth management business?
"I'd say the biggest change has been the fundamental nature of the advisor/client relationship. For years, that relationship was very transactional: 'Buy these shares at this price, sell those shares at that price.' Now the relationship is more personal and holistic. It’s not just about investments, it’s ‘What do you want to accomplish in your life? What do you want your family legacy to be?’ It’s much more complex and meaningful.
"Figuring out how to support and enrich that relationship can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding. What expertise can the firm provide to help meet our clients’ needs? How do our advisors run their businesses, and what can we do to help them succeed? What technology and services can we provide? How can we improve the client’s experience? Instead of telling our advisors and clients, ‘This is how it is,’ we’re asking, ‘How can we make it better?’ That makes a world of difference."
- Along those lines, what separates Baird from our competitors when it comes to the support we provide to our Financial Advisors, associates and clients?
"First and foremost, we always put our clients' interests first, end of story. That informs every decision we make, from which advisors we bring into the firm as well as the services and support we offer. The fact that we’re privately held and employee-owned aligns with that approach – we’re not trying to appease outside shareholders by prioritizing a quarterly earnings number. We invest in what our FAs and our clients need.
"We also take a bottom-up approach to how we grow our business. The tools we invest in, the resources we provide access to on both the front end and the back end, even how our business evolves – that all comes from our advisors and their clients. We trust that our advisors know their areas, know their clients and know what expertise clients are looking for, and we strive to accommodate them.
"A good example is our Wealth Solutions Group, and our in-house team of planning specialists. At a lot of firms, you can have access to an in-house expert – if you’re big enough, and you’re willing to pay for it. Baird doesn’t charge advisors to talk with our specialists and have them sit down with clients. It’s a support mechanism, not an income generator."
- Why should a Financial Advisor consider working at Baird?
"One of the questions I get a lot is, 'Oh, a values-based firm in the Midwest sounds great, but it can’t possibly have the resources I need to serve my clients.' As head of Wealth Solutions and Operations, that’s an assumption I take great pride in refuting.
"I would advise any FA thinking of making a move to consider the size of a new firm but also its philosophy. There's no question that bigger firms have resources that smaller ones don’t. But how do they allocate those resources? Do they invest in their advisors? Do they invest in the platform? Do they make resources available to the entire field or just the top revenue producers?
"Tools, resources and support are only available when the supporting firm cares enough to invest in them. That's one of Baird’s biggest strengths: Just like the city of Milwaukee itself, we’re big enough to matter but still small enough to care. I'd put our platform up against any firm on Wall Street."
- What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
"The best professional advice I've gotten is to always be curious. Don't just ask 'why; – keep asking ‘why’ until you get at the root of the problem. Be tenacious!
"The best personal advice I’ve received is from my mother – 'You can always choose to see the opportunity instead of the obstacle.' My mom is a master reframer!"
- Any final thoughts?
"I would say, as much as I enjoyed my team and the people in equity research, moving to Private Wealth Management was the smartest decision I've made in my career. I didn't know much about PWM at the time, and when a mentor of mine pointed me toward this opportunity in PWM, it required a leap of faith – something that doesn’t come naturally to someone who always checks the odds twice before making any decision. Now I couldn't imagine being anywhere else."
“Instead of telling our advisors and clients, 'This is how it is,' we’re asking, 'How can we make it better?' That makes a world of difference.”Laura Thurow
Executive Director of Wealth Solutions and Operations