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Who works at a new boutique?

return to San Francisco retells the growth story

It's a simple question, and the simple answer given the poor market environment until last year ought to be any banker or broker who needs a job. But these boutique investment banks have to be careful.

It takes a certain type to work at a boutique. Michael Moe, co-founder and CEO of ThinkEquity, says: "When I worked at Lehman in the early 1990s I always felt like I was a Martian. What I and Lehman cared about was so totally different. At Montgomery Securities, I was a Martian, but I was on Mars."

That's a pretty good sign. But a new boutique needs people who want to start something, not join something, and those willing to take a risk, especially after so many new ventures went belly up after markets crashed in 2000. San Francisco's new boutiques have just about passed that stage. "We're at a size now, with 140 employees, where less entrepreneurial, less risk-taking people are willing to consider joining us," says Jon Merriman, co-founder and CEO of Merriman, Curhan and Ford.

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