At age 29, William Channell wanted more from his job.
Having worked as a retail and small-business loan officer for Citicorp in Chicago the past six years, he wanted to put his education in finance and his knowledge of banking to work in a new profession.
So, encouraged by his father-in-law, who had made such a career change a decade and a half earlier, he went to work as a junior analyst at Chicago Corp.
Mr. Channell is one of the newest examples of an industry veteran joining the ranks of bank analysts. Former bankers who've crossed over to the sell side said they were enticed by an entrepreneurial culture and the opportunity for better pay.
"It's probably more financially rewarding," said Sandler O'Neill & Partners analyst Kenneth Puglisi, whose daughter is married to Mr. Channell. "But it's also rewarding providing opinions and having people listen to them - assuming you're right."
Mr. Puglisi said he "learned banking inside out" working in the finance area at Detroit Bank and Trust, a predecessor of Comerica Inc.
He leveraged that experience for 12 years at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. and about two years at Chicago Corp. before joining Sandler O'Neill in 1994.
Though Mr. Puglisi can't imagine going back to banking, a counterpart at Morgan Stanley & Co. insists being an analyst is far from glamorous. Dennis Shea, a former corporate finance executive at Mellon Bank Corp., said the job requires long hours, a lot of travel, and a great deal of gambling on stocks.
Still, Mr. Shea doesn't miss the bureacracy of banking. Despite the less-than-dazzling aspects of his current job, such as "eating dinner in the Memphis airport," he said being an analyst offers more independence.
"The culture shock was just incredible," Mr. Shea said. "In banking you're in a pyramid. You work in groups, and if you make a decision, the group analyzes it. As an analyst, you come to your own decision."
How do ex-bankers feel about rendering judgment on the industry they once served?
"I found it kind of fun," Mr. Puglisi said. "I could be a critic."
Mr. Shea said criticizing banks is the easy part, but determining whether a stock is overpriced is trickier.
James Schutz, another veteran of Mellon's finance department and Mr. Channell's supervisor at Chicago Corp., said: "It's a much more entrepreneurial position, much more incentive-compensated business. Timing is much more important here."
At least one Wall Street analyst went in the opposite direction: PaineWebber's Lawrence Cohn shifted to banking but decided it wasn't for him and went back to being an to analyst.
"I think I'm the only analyst on the Street who ever made a loan," he said.
Mr. Cohn worked for several different firms as an equity analyst starting in 1970. Twenty years later, he left the research group of Drexel Burnham Lambert to work in the commercial lending department at Chase Manhattan Corp. That job lasted 18 months, and in mid-1991, Mr. Cohn returned to his previous profession, with PaineWebber. How do the experiences compare?
"It's what you would expect," Mr. Cohn said. "Banks are much more structured than Wall Street. And they have to be. If you make a bad loan, you have to live with it. If you buy bad stock, you blow it out and buy somebody else's."