Several investment bankers have left their positions to start advisory firms, allowing them to serve a particular niche as a boutique investment bank or to eliminate conflicts of interest with a larger institution. That shift to will likely continue as clients look for more specialized services. "I think it is part of a broader trend towards a boutique movement in M&A," says Jason Munoz, who recently started investment bank Slate Partners LLC.

Denver-based Slate was started by Munoz and his colleague Aaron Bachik to provide advisory services to the building materials and building services markets. Munoz and Bachik left investment bank Green Manning & Bunch Ltd. in March for the new venture. Slate will serve manufacturers, distributors and producers of natural and manufactured building materials nationwide, as well as architects, engineers and construction services providers.

"The group we started was part of an emergence from generally focused M&A firms to much more targeted and specialized firms," Munoz says. "In our minds, what provides the most value to our clients is establishing a firm dedicated to one particular industry."

"I think it's becoming increasingly specialized by industry; that's how people win business," says Doug Hubert, who also recently started an investment bank.

Aside from industry focus, larger organizations that provide a variety of services could be looking to spin off investment banking practices to eliminate the perception of conflicts of interest. "A lot of specialty banks have been formed, and a great deal of the case for those banks is that they're reducing conflicts," Hubert says, of some firms.

In January, Hubert and Don Schaeffer left CBIZ Inc.'s (NYSE: CBZ) investment banking practice and opened De Nes Partners LLC. They also bought CBIZ's M&A group.

Des Nes, headquartered in Atlanta, focuses on advising family and privately held businesses with Ebitda between $3 million and $25 million.

"Our niche, if we have one, is most of our clients are first-time sellers; entrepreneurs who have built up companies but who have never been through a transaction before," says Hubert.

Before the formation of De Nes, for CBIZ's M&A team to be hired by a company client, the accounting arm would need to resign from its engagement, according to Hubert.

"Changing auditors just before or during a deal is not a good result," says Hubert. The relationship between the two business arms basically precluded the investment banking side from a number of opportunities.

Hubert expects more new investment banking firms to pop up: "I think we'll continue to see more - clients feel comfortable with people who know their niche intimately."

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