It wasn’t that long ago that the investment banks were tripping over themselves to build out financial sponsor coverage. These days, it’s all about catering to the corporate clientele. Duff & Phelps is the latest to augment its services in this area, poaching Michael Kelly from Ernst & Young to serve as a managing director in its strategic value advisory practice.

Kelly, who will work out of Chicago, had actually focused on private equity at Ernst & Young, serving as a partner and leader of the firm’s PE group in the Midwest region. He also served as head of research and development and strategy for Ernst & Young’s transaction advisory services practice.

The strategic advisory practice at Duff & Phelps focuses on improving performance, optimizing transaction and investment strategies and boosting fundamental valuations for companies.

In the first-quarter conference call, in May, Duff & Phelps CEO and chairman Noah Gottdiener hinted that the firm was selectively recruiting new hires, and noted that while the M&A backlog was “still small,” it had roughly doubled in size from the beginning of the year. He also suggested that the nature of the buyer has changed in light of the economy and the ongoing unrest in the credit markets.

“We’re seeing more strategic buyers even in the middle-market space, a space that had been dominated by private equity buyers,” Gottdiener said at the time, according to a transcript of the call found on Thomson One Analytics.

He added that Duff & Phelps continues to seek out candidates in areas like “dispute consulting, financial engineering and restructuring,” and noted that while its M&A advisory business remains slow, “we’re seeing some extraordinary talent at pricing that we couldn’t envision in the past, we’re taking advantage.”

Calls to Duff & Phelps were not immediately returned by press time.