Not horrible at all. National viewers will see for themselves when the Milwaukee skyline is in the news a lot in July as the Republican convention descends upon the city. We love this community whose new tagline, Fresh, Flavor, Forward, describes so much about what we enjoy about living here.   

Our professional home is equally compelling. Lowe Group has been Milwaukee-based for more than 20 years. We regularly travel to New York, Chicago, DC and elsewhere serving our financial services clients, many based elsewhere. But we make our home in a city with a major financial services concentration.  

Our city is home or a significant base for many storied asset management and financial services firms. I began my career at Strong Capital Management (later bought by Wells Fargo and now part of Allspring Global Investments).  

Richard Strong and money managers Ab Nicholas and Ted Kellner had all attended University of Wisconsin’s applied security program. These great stockpickers then worked together at what was originally the Marshall & Illsley Bank (now BMO Harris). Dick, Ab and Ted would all go on to launch their own firms—Strong Funds, Nicholas Funds and Fiduciary Management. And there were others like Bill Nasgovitz and Hugh Dennison at Heartland Funds.  

Mary Ellen Stanek, Charlie Groeshell and Gary Elfe were busy building an institutional fixed income powerhouse at what was then First Wisconsin Bank (now US Bank) before moving to Baird. Major Wall Street firms knew they needed to include Milwaukee in their roadshows given the significant assets based in the state.  

Today, that concentration of elite money managers continues to thrive here in our community. A few years back, Bloomberg’s Charles Stein described Milwaukee as America’s Mutual Fund Mecca 

Who are the leaders today? Here are just a few: 

  • Baird Funds, boasts more than $140 billion in assets under management. Baird has several Morningstar gold-rated funds and a Co-CIO, Mary Ellen Stanek, who was named a Morningstar’s Outstanding Portfolio Manager, at the helm. Baird’s largest fund, $46 billion Baird Aggregate Bond Fund (BAIGX), is a core bond strategy that is used widely by institutional investors, advisors and qualified retirement plans. 
  • Allspring Global, though not based in Wisconsin, just announced they are moving one of their largest offices from Menomonee Falls to Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Today the firm oversees roughly $580 billion in AUM. Ann Miletti, Head of Equities, and portfolio manager Bryant VanCronkhite are frequent voices on CNBC and Bloomberg, talking about stocks and the firm’s actively managed equity fund lineup. The firm also manages several highly rated taxable and tax-exempt bond funds including the $11 billion Core Plus Bond Fund (WIPIX) and significant retirement plan assets. 
  • Artisan Partners was formed when two former Strong Funds leaders, Andy and Carlene Ziegler, left to create their own firm and become one of the industry’s biggest start-up success stories. With more than $150 billion in AUM, the firm is comprised of multiple differentiated investment teams.  

And there are so many others including the huge investment team employed at Northwestern Mutual and numerous boutique investment firms including Marietta Investment Partners, Pegasus Partners, Riverwater Partners, Oarsman Capital, 1492 Capital Management, Reinhart Partners and others.  

And don’t forget that Johnson Wealth, the wealth management arm of Johnson Financial Group founded by the storied Johnson Family, is the largest family-owned wealth management firm in the state.  

But it isn’t just investment and wealth pros. Milwaukee hosts several law firms with significant financial practices and several leading providers of institutional back-office services including UMB and US Bank Fund Services. One of the biggest white label ETF service firms, Tidal Financial Group, calls Milwaukee its headquarters. And, financial communications agencies like ours have been able to grow and thrive here given a base of talented professionals with meaningful financial communications experience.  

I’ve come to know many of the leaders in this industry. It is fun to see them come together to support Secure Futures, a financial education nonprofit, at an annual investment conference and fundraiser that brings hundreds of investment professionals to Milwaukee each year. Oakmark’s David Herro, another UW grad who is based down the road in Chicago, and Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, also originally from Wisconsin, have been major supporters of the conference. 

Milwaukee is a community like no other—financial or otherwise.