Financial services companies are shedding their reputation as dull places for technologists to work.
Just ask some of the technology whizzes who have been wooed by banks and securities companies in recent years. In interviews, they talk about the excitement of working for companies that are using technology to transform the way they interact with customers.
Some have even given up stock options and the other perks offered by technology companies for a chance to make a mark on an industry.
"At pure technology companies, it is technology for technology's sake," said Ainsley G. Rattray, a vice president for security and Internet architecture at J.P. Morgan & Co.
"But at a financial company, it is about ... how to use the technology to do more exciting things, like trading on the Internet."
Before joining Morgan in 1993, Mr. Rattray worked for various technology companies that served financial institutions. But he said he made the jump to Morgan because it was a workplace "where technology was everywhere and there was nothing not being looked at."
Lee A. Feinberg, a vice president for interactive services at Chase Manhattan Corp., also said he is excited about the technological changes in financial services.
Mr. Feinberg, who had been at AT&T Corp., said he made the move to financial services in order to "apply new technology to an area that is being transformed by technology, which in turn is transforming consumer behavior."
John C. Wilson, a managing director with the financial services practice of Korn/Ferry International, a leading international executive recruitment firm, said financial services companies' need for experienced and talented technologists is rising daily.
He said these companies should hire technologists from outside and inside financial services. Outsiders, he said, bring cutting-edge thinking about the Internet. Insiders know the particulars of a financial institution.
Several banking veterans say they have enjoyed making the switch to the technology department.
Von E. Bailey, an application developer with Merrill Lynch & Co., started working in the customer services department at First Union Corp. in the early 1980s.
He said that although he enjoyed interacting with the bank's customers, he did not see it as the way to advance in financial services.
Mr. Bailey was later hired at Merrill as an analyst, but his interest in computers led him to a training program for the systems side.
He explained that in addition to higher pay, his new job offers him the chance to use his creativity to develop and build something tangible.
"It is a wide-open field that is still a booming area with new advances every day," he said. "There is the incentive to be on the front edge of that."
Now, Mr. Bailey said, he enjoys being part of the "hot and prestigious part of the bank."
Frank L. Bentz, a senior vice president for technology management at $1.4 billion-asset Sandy Spring National Bank, Olney, Md., started working at the bank in 1976 as a bookkeeper and teller during college.
He eventually took various positions in the bank's marketing and product development departments.
In 1983, Sandy Spring hired Mr. Bentz to work on the latest technology at the time, automated teller machines. And as the technology advanced, so did Mr. Bentz.
Today, he is responsible for implementing new technology, including Internet access and e-mail systems.
Mr. Bentz said that he finds plenty of satisfaction in being a bank technologist.
"The problems and solutions are easier to define because they are tangible," he said.