Research salespeople constitute a vital link in the institutional investment process.

“The portfolio manager takes the decision to buy or to sell, the analysts offer the intellectual framework under which a stock should be bought or sold — and the salesperson has to be the filter to sort out the ‘right’ and useful information for the portfolio manager’s needs on a daily basis,” explains one participant in Institutional Investor’s 2012 All-Europe Research Team survey. (We keep confidential the identities of respondents and their firms to ensure their continuing cooperation.) Salespeople “offer the work of their analysts on a tailor-made basis, adding their specific views — which often gives an additional level of information.”

This portfolio manager doesn’t hesitate to declare Deutsche Bank home to Europe’s best equity research sales force — and he’s far from alone in his opinion. We asked participants in this year’s survey to tell us which firms excel in research sales, and Deutsche Bank captures the pole position in our inaugural All-Europe Sales Team. BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research takes second place, followed by J.P. Morgan Cazenove and then Morgan Stanley.

Nearly 1,500 buy-side analysts and money managers at approximately 650 firms that collectively manage some $5 trillion in European equity assets responded to our question about Europe’s top sales teams — that’s roughly 67 percent of the people who cast votes in the research survey, representing 85 percent of the participating buy-side institutions. For more information, see our methodology.

Money managers are enthusiastic in their praise for the German bank’s salespeople. “They completely focus on the needs of the client,” one Europe-based senior portfolio manager tells us, while another client observes that “the team offers numerous meetings with company managements, and the meetings are well organized. My salesperson is Jeremy Kilpatrick, and he is very good.”

Other salespeople singled out for special praise include Alexander Evans — “the best health care specialist salesperson on the Street”; Thomas Lindahl, who “is obviously very knowledgeable about the market and their research, but for me it is his personality that stands out — he is a genuine guy who truly cares for one’s needs”; Timothy Race, who does “a great job in large-capitalization pharmaceuticals”; and Torsten Slok, who with his colleagues in economics “are standouts.”