Investor demand for access to corporate leaders in the developed and emerging markets of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa is at fever pitch, according to the sell-side firms that help connect the two groups.
“The market has been volatile and unpredictable, with macroeconomic factors such as inflation particularly challenging,” said Eric Lopez, head of equity EMEA research and global head of corporate access at BofA Securities. “In a challenging and rapidly evolving economic environment, investors want to stay close to corporates. This is why we continue to see strong demand for clear, stock-specific stories and this has driven even higher corporate and strategic access demand from investors.”
Lopez reported that corporate and strategic access activity is higher than ever, demonstrating how highly it is valued by both investors and corporates. “It remains one of the key pillars of our research services at BofA,” he said. “Some of our main competitors pulled back from corporate access post-regulatory changes, but we continued to invest all along, recognizing its value to our clients.”
Developed Europe survey respondents representing the buyside elevated BofA Securities from last year’s seventh place to the pole position while being asked to consider a number of attributes including conferences, field trips, logistics, roadshows, team quality, and virtual events.
BNP Paribas Exane placed second, followed by Kepler Cheuvreux in third. UBS and JPMorgan Chase took fourth and fifth, respectively. In line with other II surveys, results were weighted by each voting firm’s commission spending in the region.
The survey also captured the corporate point of view. These respondents were asked to consider five attributes when ranking sell-side firms and third-party providers: investor feedback, investor introductions, road shows, field trips/site visits/reversed road shows, logistics, team quality, and conferences/virtual events.
Kepler Cheuvreux was voted No. 1 by corporates, followed by Berenberg in second place. BNP Paribas Exane took third, while BofA Securities was fourth. Goldman Sachs rounded out the top five.
In the emerging EMEA ranking, BofA placed first from the buy-side point of view, followed by HSBC in second place. The remainder of the leaderboard mirrored the 2022 results: JPMorgan placed third, followed by EFG-Hermes in fourth and Morgan Stanley in fifth. The attributes under consideration were the same in both the Developed Europe and Emerging EMEA surveys.
From the corporate point of view, Wood & Co. placed first, followed by EFG-Hermes in second and HSBC in third. Goldman Sachs ranked fourth while BofA ranked fifth.
This year has seen a big uptick in investor trips and on-the-ground, in-person conferences, according to Camille Asmar, head of equity sales for Europe and Emerging Markets at HSBC. “Our clients have been visiting Emerging EMEA, especially the Middle East, to know it better and live the local experience,” he said.
“Clients want different things at different stages,” he added. “They want to speak to the sales and traders, then to the analysts, then it’s corporate access, then it’s the local experts, then they may look for something completely different — and then they are back with the corporates. At each point, you are having to adapt to what the client and the corporate wants. We are here to bridge that interaction.”
Investors and corporates agree on most things that matter, according to Camille Lemercier, co-head of corporate and expert access at BNP Paribas Exane — though different client segments have different needs. “They want high-quality interactions in a convenient and cost-effective way,” she said. “One gap we sometimes see today is between high demand for management time from hedge funds and the allocation priorities of some corporates which can be weighted towards long-only institutions. We can help to bridge this gap by helping corporates to better understand the hedge funds and their investment goals — they’re generally better aligned than corporates might think at first.”
Lemercier praised her team’s attention to detail when it comes to corporate access. “We’ve been lucky to have a team of very committed and experienced people who really care about investor and corporate client satisfaction,” she said. “Our investor and corporate clients are very busy people and extremely demanding so we need to make sure it all works smoothly. Being part of a consistently-leading cash equities franchise is also a massive help.”
After the rollercoaster of the past three years, where the pandemic and subsequent restrictions impacted travel and in-person events, corporate access has emerged more flexible and more sustainable, according to Lemercier. “When working with corporates and investors today, there is no default position of physical versus virtual events,” she said. “Instead, we work together to make a judgement on the best format depending on the specific circumstances.”
HSBC’s Asmar noted that corporate access is still operating in a hybrid world. “The virtual model is here to stay and we are offering it to our clients in parallel with physical in-person events,” he said.
However the sell side works to connect investors and executives, the service offered will only grow in importance, according to the region’s top providers. “We think corporate access plays an increasingly important role to help investors make well-informed decisions,” said Lopez. “The main challenge is to keep innovating and improving our corporate access offering to ensure we remain market-leading.”