The ongoing war in Ukraine, rising interest rates, and market volatility are prompting investors to seek thematic investments focused on long term trends. Nowhere is this more evident than in the push toward cleaner energy, and with it, a boom in demand for ESG research.
“Certainly, the approach we have taken here is to make ESG part of the fundamental analyst work as opposed to creating a distinct Canadian ESG research platform,” said Andre-Philippe Hardy, head of Canadian research at RBC Capital Markets.
For the fourth straight year, RBC secured the No. 1 spot on the annual All-Canada Research Team, a ranking of the country’s top equity research firms. The bank has held on to its prime position since the list’s inception in 2019. The firm was followed by BMO Capital Markets, which remained at No. 2, while BofA Securities came in at No. 3, rising two spots from last year. JPMorgan Chase & Co. had the biggest leap, rising three spots to No. 4.
This year’s ranking was based on the votes of 356 individuals from 256 firms. The participants, comprised of directors of research and investment professionals, were asked to rate their top firms across 18 sectors.
The main results were weighted by commissions, with the survey limited to firms which spend at least $100,000. The secondary leaderboard was weighted by assets under management. On that list, RBC and BMO once again remained at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, while BofA improved one spot to No. 3.
This year’s top providers highlight how environmental, social, and governance research — once limited to designated “ESG teams” — is becoming increasingly integrated within equity research departments, where analysts have both an in-depth and bird’s view eye of the companies they cover and are better positioned to differentiate the leaders from the laggards.
“We really think that making ESG research the responsibility of the fundamental analysts helps get a picture that’s more relevant company by company; a fundamental analyst can understand what is relevant to a particular company,” said Hardy. “The analysts know what the big issues are, and they have a view on whether those issues will change or not.”
Clients are also seeking a deeper understanding of the trends and themes driving the markets through research providers that can offer a global context, according to Daire Browne, head of Americas equity research at BofA.
“The global reach of our research platform is a huge differentiator when dealing with clients — either because our clients are looking at a coverage universe that goes beyond the Canadian-domestic names or because of the ability of our teams to identify and highlight global cross currents,” Brown said. “Our head of Canadian banks research also heads our U.S. banks coverage, giving him a unique vantage point to see what global trends could impact the Canadian lenders.”
On the sales front, RBC yet again led the charge at No. 1, followed by BMO at second place and CIBC World Markets in third. For the All-Canada Sales Team, voters were asked to rate the best firms in overall sales across six performance metrics.
Apart from live events, which have benefitted sales teams across regions, RBC credits its top spot to the hybrid work model, which has helped staffers better collaborate on behalf of clients.
“The return to work has been critical to our success as our team benefitted immensely from the increased connectivity with colleagues across the business as it enabled greater information flow, deeper insights for our clients, and highlighted our strengths as a global bank,” said Bernie Allion, head of Canadian equity sales at RBC.
Allion’s team has also added an ESG specialist to distinguish its coverage model. “This has allowed us to cater to clients with dedicated ESG mandates, as well as those new to ESG investing and integration,” he added.