Jon R. Burke admits he is probably the least numbers oriented bank analyst around.

"In most cases I've known the management of the banks I follow through several business cycles," said Mr. Burke, analyst with the Robinson-Humphrey Co. in Atlanta. "I've known the people running the company when they were just grunts."

His approach is to get to know the company and its marketplace including the bank's competition -- even if he doesn't cover those institutions. "You need to know all the players in the marketplace," he says.

He also says an analyst needs to have an understanding of the broader trends in the marketplace, in order to make intelligent decision about the banks he covers and how that institution fits in that market." His best picks? Florida's Barnett Banks and United Cos. Financial of Louisiana.

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