Even the best investment research is of little value if it doesn’t make its way into the hands of clients. The task of delivering research in a timely manner — plus answering logistical questions and arranging meetings between investors and corporate executives — generally is directed by a firm’s sales force.

Which bank’s sales team outperforms all others when it comes to meeting the myriad needs of research customers? To find out, Institutional Investor asked participants in the 2011 Latin America Research Team survey to tell us which firm fields the best overall sales team. In a very close contest, with less than 1 percentage point separating the top four firms, Itaú BBA wins the pole position on the Latin America Sales Team, followed by Morgan Stanley in second place, BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research in third and Credit Suisse in fourth. Results are based on responses from 527 buy-side analysts and money managers at approximately 320 firms that collectively manage some $409 billion in Latin American assets. Roughly 80 percent of the people who cast votes in the Latin America Research Team survey, representing 88 percent of the participating buy-side institutions, answered our question about the best sales team in the region.

Three firms — BofA, Itaú and Morgan Stanley — appear in the top five in each ranking. Portfolio managers credit J.P. Morgan with providing the best Latin American equities and fixed-income research, but the firm tumbles to No. 7 in sales. BofA ties for second in research and takes third in sales; Morgan Stanley is No. 2 on both teams. The full list of winning firms on the Latin America Sales Team appears on the right.

“Clients are looking for in-depth equity research, for angles that show a deep understanding of companies and insights into potential drivers of earnings growth or multiple expansion,” explains Adam Cherry, Itaú’s New York–based head of equity sales for institutional investors in North America. (The firm also has a team based in London, led by Mark Fenton, that serves clients in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and a squad headquartered in São Paulo, directed by Carlos Maggioli, serving customers across Latin America.) “They are particularly complimentary on Itaú’s local edge in our research and sales calls.”

Indeed they are. “Itaú BBA’s sales teams led by Carlos Maggioli in São Paulo and Adam Cherry in New York combine very strong local content — being Brazil’s most active bank and broker — with the global reach of its New York and London desks,” observes one client. “Being a Brazil-based portfolio manager, I manage to get a sense of what global investors are thinking. Also, they can process vast amounts of information and tailor it to my needs — definitely a top sales team for a top research group.”