< The 2014 All-America Research TeamJay CohenBank of America Merrill LynchFirst-place appearances: 3
Total appearances: 17
Team debut: 1998Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Jay Cohen advances one level to recapture the No. 2 position he held in 2012. “His long history with the group and his ability to identify pricing cycles in a timely fashion makes him a key voice,” insists one loyalist. Cohen is neutral on U.S. nonlife insurers, in part because improving return on equity will be “a challenge given low interest rates, which continue to put downward pressure on investment income.” Other headwinds include decelerating commercial insurance price increases and declining reinsurance prices, although a healthy amount of share-repurchase activity is adding to earnings per share and return on equity for most of the names he covers, the analyst adds. His preference is for quality insurers that are trading below book value, such as New York–based American International Group, as well as growth-at-a-reasonable-price companies, like Switzerland’s ACE, that are able to boost revenue despite a tough environment.