Vince Lowry, director and top consultant in the Philadelphia office of The Consulting Group, the investment consulting unit of Salomon Smith Barney, left the firm to start VTL Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Philadelphia. Mr. Lowry, who had been with TCG for 20 years, said he left amid mounting pressure from clients for consultants to be independent. "That pressure has been mounting for some time," said Mr. Lowry. "This move puts us in a position where there is no perception of a conflict of interest in the advice that we give. We only receive hard fees from clients." Kim Atwater, a Smith Barney spokeswoman, acknowledged Mr. Lowry's departure but could not provide further information by deadline. .