Banking and FinanceManaging DirectorCo-chief investment officer, Baird Advisors,President, Baird FundsBaird | MilwaukeeMary Ellen Stanek is currently responsible for over $100 billion in assets under management as managing director of Milwaukee-based Baird and co-chief investment officer of Baird Advisors. Recognized as a pioneer in fixed-income investing, Stanek has been named to Barron’s list of the 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance and was named Morningstar’s Outstanding Portfolio Manager in 2022. Previously, she was president and chief executive officer of Firstar Investment Research & Management Co. Stanek has garnered more than 15 awards for her civic and professional contributions in Milwaukee. She is past board chair of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, past co-chair of the Milwaukee 7, past president of TEMPO and a member of Professional Dimensions and Milwaukee Women inc. She serves on the boards of Baird Financial Group, Northwestern Mutual, and WEC Energy Group, as well as many nonprofits. She formerly chaired and is a trustee emerita on the board of her alma mater, Marquette University, and is currently co-chairing its $750 million campaign with her husband, Scott.
Education: Bachelor’s, Marquette University; MBA, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
"I was a college intern for a community bank, McHenry State Bank. I had to be ready to do anything needed from covering the receptionist/switchboard to teller. I learned to be flexible, adapt to the needs of the organization and that customers are key."
What piece of advice has had the most significant impact on your career?
"Focus on what matters most. You can’t be everything or do everything, but you can pay attention to what’s most important to achieve your goals."
“I start my day by listening to the Wall Street Journal Report Podcast with Gordon Deal. It’s a great way to launch the day.”
What's your hobby/passion?
“Family time. I particularly relish time with our grandchildren (we have 4!). Fortunately, they all live in Milwaukee.”
If you could take a one-year sabbatical, what would you do?
What’s the toughest business challenge you’ve had to overcome?
“At Firstar, leading a business and team through an acquisition and subsequent integration. Ultimately deciding to leave and start over. In hindsight it worked out extremely well, but it was difficult!”
What advice would you give to a young professional?
"Sometimes opportunities come before you think you’re completely ready. It did for me, I was 27 when I was given the top job. The advice I give young professionals is believe in yourself, work hard, surround yourself with great people and enjoy the journey."
What has been your/your company’s most significant success over the last 12 months?
"Navigating through highly uncertain times successfully for our key stakeholders – clients, associates, and our community."
What is one thing you would change about Wisconsin to make it even better?
"Create more opportunities for young talent. Be seen as a destination to build your career and life. Milwaukee has so many great attributes! I didn’t grow up here but am a huge fan!"
Is there a nonprofit cause that has special meaning to you?
“All In Milwaukee, a college completion program that provides financial aid, advising, program and career support to high potential limited income diverse Milwaukee students to complete college, build meaningful careers and transform the Milwaukee community. Very impressive results and a game changer for Milwaukee.”
What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?
"Starting over in 2000 by leaving Firstar/FIRMCO and moving to Baird."
What’s at the top of your bucket list?
"Trip around the world."
What has you most excited about the future?
"Our people, they are awesome! Whatever is ahead, they will navigate the challenges and create opportunities."