Nomura Securities Co. debuts atop the roster of Institutional Investor’s inaugural All-Japan Sales Team. UBS captures second place, followed by Daiwa Securities Group in third.
In conjunction with II’s 2012 All-Japan Research Team survey, in which we asked buy-side analysts and money managers to name that country’s best researchers in 28 industries and four macroeconomic disciplines, we requested that they tell us which firms field the best overall sales forces. We received responses to this question from roughly 800 investment professionals at approximately 300 firms that collectively manage some $940 billion in Japanese equities; that’s about 80 percent of the people who cast votes in the research survey, and they represent 94 percent of the participating buy-side institutions.
“The Nomura salespeople strike a great balance between a relationship-driven approach and commercialism,” observes one client. (We keep the identity of survey respondents confidential to ensure their ongoing cooperation.) “Quite often brokerages end up at one end or the other, but Nomura repeatedly shows that it is a partner for the long term and are commercial enough to be able to commit resources.”
One Nomura advocate appreciates the multifaceted approach the team takes to delivering information and recommendations. “The Nomura salespeople provide investment ideas through various formats, which include research memos, regular reports, webinars, conference calls, luncheon presentations, formal conferences and so on,” this portfolio manager explains. “Because of this huge amount of information, they are able to meet my needs.”
Nomura’s team consists of 57 equity and 54 fixed-income salespeople serving institutional investors not only in Japan but throughout Asia, Europe and the U.S., according to Daisuke Mototani, global head of equity sales.
“Clients continue to expect depth of research and content, and corporate access is also important,” Mototani says. But their needs are changing. “Over the past few years, they have requested more cross-asset-class and cross-regional research, both from an Asia-Pacific and a global perspective,” he adds. “Clients are showing more interest in thematic research than updates on single stocks.”
Some buy-siders singled out individuals for special commendation. “Ken Miyashiro is an exceptional salesperson with great market knowledge, and he brings together all of Nomura’s considerable resources in his client servicing,” says one fund manager. Another notes that Nagisa Watanabe is “very capable of exploring Nomura’s global research platform and other internal resources — she’s the first one I call when I have any questions or requests.”
Research salespeople can help money managers cope with information overload, explains Trevor Hill, deputy head of Japanese equities and head of equity distribution for UBS.
“We find that our clients have a clear and consistent need for us to help them sift through a world that’s awash in fast-moving data, facts and information,” he says. “They need us to help identify those bits that are relevant to better understand which companies should be bought or sold. There are a number of ways to do this through a multitude of channels, and our job is to plug in the right bits for each client.”
UBS has structured its sales operations so that “whenever we have something of interest on a Japan macro theme or about a Japanese company, our Japan experts get the message out to both the clients they cover as well as every institutional salesperson that UBS has around the world,” Hill adds, noting that the firm has offices with Japan research salespeople in Hong Kong, London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. “We think this collaborative, cross-border approach best ensures that key ideas get to as many clients as possible quickly, and it helps them to benefit from our ideas.”
Investors say this approach works. “The UBS team is on top of their product,” declares one U.S.-based money manager. “Especially with their long-term, Q-series think pieces, they help you know not only what their research is saying but what they have heard from others. Keith Truelove does an especially good job of staying on top of where the market is and how it affects our investment process.”
Another buy-sider based in the U.S. has “an especially good impression” of Erik Peter: “He is one of the few Japanese and pan-Asia salespeople I deal with who actually puts himself in an investor’s shoes and thinks about the stocks objectively.”
Shuntaro Takeuchi also wins plaudits for his work. “He summarizes UBS’s global analyst, economist and strategist comments every day in a very concise way, and helps me understand what is happening in the world,” this Tokyo-based advocate says. “He is strong in the technology sector, but he can also cover any topics, including big-picture macro views and detailed stock comments.”
The latter is rising in prominence among portfolio managers, according to Akuzawa Tetsuo, who oversees Daiwa’s 80-person team, which includes 60 equity and 20 fixed-income salespeople serving institutional investors. “The most notable change over the past year was the increase of alpha-capture-funds investing in Japan — hence the increasing importance of individual stock recommendations.”
Clients also look to the sales team to come up with investable ideas, arrange meetings with corporate leaders and set up calls with the firm’s researchers, he adds.
Investors say that Daiwa delivers. “They’re very responsive and set up lots of meetings and conferences, which I appreciate,” says one buy-side backer. Another praises the team for “taking the time to understand what I’m looking for, then presenting ideas that conform to my expectations and needs.”
One New York–based ally is especially appreciative of Saori Kumai. “She understands our team’s complicated coverage structure quite well, and that makes her e-mails and calls much more relevant and valuable,” this money manager says. “Through the help she offers, I feel our importance to her and to Daiwa. They have many excellent analysts, and we feel that the sales team does a good job helping us utilize that resource.”
That’s the primary goal of all top sales teams: to help investors avail themselves of all that a firm has to offer. “We try to position ourselves best for developing and maintaining mutually beneficial client relationships,” says UBS’s Hill. “Everyone says it, but we think one of our uniquely competitive strengths is client focus. We put a lot of effort into getting that right for the long term.”