The lackluster performance in bank stocks has claimed another casualty from the ranks of banking analysts.
Raphael Soifer, 57, retired from Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. after 17 years to start his own consulting firm that offers strategic and public policy analysis in the financial services industry. Mr. Soifer's last day at Brown Brothers Harriman was Tuesday.
Before becoming a senior vice president at Brown Brothers Harriman, Mr. Soifer held several management posts at Bankers Trust, including investment banker. From 1970 to 1973 he served in the U.S. government as special assistant to the assistant secretary of commerce for maritime affairs.
Mr. Soifer said that for many years he had been looking for an opportunity to combine his experience as a bank analyst, investment banker, and U.S. government official. He said the slump in bank stocks has made it much easier for him to begin as an entrepreneur.
"Bank stocks are out of favor, which makes being a bank stock analyst much less fun," Mr. Soifer said. "Here at Brown Brothers Harriman, we think that bank stocks will get cheaper before they get better. So if you are an analyst who is thinking of exploring other ventures, now is a good time to follow up on those thoughts."
The downturn in bank stocks has prompted a minor stampede out of the sector. Mr. Soifer's announced retirement comes just a week after prominent bank analyst Thomas H. Hanley abruptly left Warburg Dillon Read. Some believed that Mr. Hanley's departure had to do with the poor performance of the group.
Other analysts have opted recently to take a more entrepreneurial path. Sean Ryan, a former bank analyst at Bear Stearns & Co., started his own independent research firm, Byrne, Ryan & Co., in White Plains, N.Y. And Thomas K. Brown started his own money management firm called Second Curve Capital in New York after leaving Tiger Management, a major hedge fund.
Some other analysts who have tried their hands at entrepreneurism include Carole S. Berger, Robert Albertson, and Jeffrey Miller, all of whom have started hedge funds.
The departure of so many high-ranking bank analysts has caused some anxiety among portfolio managers. Stephen Berman, a portfolio manager at Stein Roe & Farnhan Inc., said the many departures are not surprising, considering that the work of sell-side analysts is "pretty demanding" and the decline in banks stocks has made the job more "frustrating."
"I miss some of these people," Mr. Berman said. "I will miss Ray. He had a nice jaundiced perspective on the banking industry."
Mr. Soifer said that his firm, which he has yet to named, should be up and running in the next few weeks.
In the markets on Tuesday, shares of First Tennessee National Corp. plummeted almost 30% after the company announced Monday evening that it would fall short of its first-quarter estimates because of problems in its mortgages and capital markets businesses.
Investors also took down other companies that are heavily involved in mortgages. They include Wells Fargo & Co., which fell 56.25 cents, or 3.11% to $33.0625 and PNC Bank Corp., down 37.50 cents, or 0.96% to $38.6875. Lori Appelbaum, an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co., counseled against tarring the entire group because of First Tennessee's problems.
Wells Fargo, FleetBoston Financial Corp., PNC, National City Corp., and SunTrust Banks Inc. have indicated that their mortgage operations would in the black in the first quarter, the analyst wrote in a report to clients. These companies are not dependent on originations, she said.