In 1996, for the first time in years, most creation of money-management firms wasn't just a matter of buying one, a study found.

That means parent companies that lost money-management talent didn't get paid much for it.

Only 49 U.S. money-management firms-independents or subsidiaries-were acquired last year, down from 60 in 1995, the study found. But 60 were established through so-called lift-outs or start-ups, up from 30 the year before.

In a lift-out, a group of money managers is hired away from one institution to establish a money-management unit at another-typically a more entrepreneurial one that will provide capital.

A start-up is simply a new shop established by investment professionals. Many start-ups involve people who have left a previous employer together.

"Lift-outs are primarily the result of the industry's failure to adopt ownership and compensation structures necessary to guarantee the retention of intellectual capital," says the report, by Gregory Hazlett of Investment Counseling Inc., a consulting firm based in West Conshohocken, Pa.

"Not only does management lose valuable talent," the report says, "but typically the lifted-out employees are seduced by key competitors, leaving the company at a great disadvantage," since it is not compensated for the loss.

Start-ups "just happen," said investment banker Peter L. Bain, a principal of Berkshire Capital Corp., New York. "Guys quit, sit with their lawyers, and start their own companies."

He cited the exodus last month of eight portfolio managers from NationsBank Corp.'s asset management business. The eight, who formed Rockwood Capital Management in St. Louis, had worked for Boatmen's Bancshares, which NationsBank bought.

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