For weeks, attacks by a Yemeni-based militia on more than two dozen ships in the Red Sea have had the investment world on edge.
In the biggest disruption to global supply chains since the global pandemic, the problems along one of the world’s busiest trading routes — and the U.S.-led response — have raised more questions than answers across industries and countries.
For equity analysts at BofA Securities, it has proved an apt crucible for operating in the global markets. Shipping analysts based in Singapore, London and the U.S. have been closely collaborating and tracking events, and “scheduling expert calls with clients to help them make sense of what’s happening,” according to Vikram Sahu, global head of equity research.
At the same time, those insights are being shared with other sectors of BofA’s research team — from the insurance industry to automobiles and other consumer goods being shipped around the world.
“You’ve got to have a culture of dialogue and collaboration between parts of the team,” Sahu said in an interview early in the new year. “If you do that, then you are truly playing to your comparative advantage and you are then thinking global, but acting local and that’s something that we actually have.”
Respondents over the past year’s surveys concur. Institutional Investor’s annual compilation, the Global Research Leaders ranking, has recognized BofA Securities as the No. 1 sell-side provider for the equity sectors.
The firm earned 182 total team positions across II’s 2023 equity research team surveys, which included America, Asia (ex-Japan), China, Developed Europe, Japan, Emerging EMEA, and Latin America.
Last year’s winner, J.P. Morgan Chase took second this year with a total of 177 positions, and UBS repeated its third-place performance. Morgan Stanley and Citi were once again fourth and fifth, respectively.
Last year was challenging for clients with key macro questions around inflation, rate cycles, recession risk, and geopolitical tensions driving valuations in equities, confirmed Dan Dowd, head of global research and Evidence Lab at UBS Investment Bank. “With such market headwinds and pressure on clients to perform themselves, clients looked to us to help them connect the macro and micro and deliver ideas to help them navigate the uncertainty,” he said. Dowd noted that UBS’ investments in its new data products and feeds across quant research and Evidence Lab were well received by clients.
The firm is also about six months from finalizing its acquisition of former research competitor, Credit Suisse, which allowed the firm to bolster its presence in the US, Japan, India, and other key markets including its home market of Switzerland and add to sectors such as healthcare and technology. “The Credit Suisse acquisition has given us an opportunity to further consolidate our position as a leading research house” and add 20 percent to its analyst staff and growing the number of stocks it covers to more than 3,600+, Dowd said.
In a year where the consensus macro view was wrong, bottom-up, stock-picking research and analysis was really important to investors, said Sahu. The equity research head credited the domain knowledge and tenure of his analysts but also the work BofA Securities did to add data-driven products.
“At present we’ve got about 86 proprietary indicators around the world, which is one of the broadest suite of proprietary indicators amongst our peers,” he said. “That helps give our analysts differentiated insights so they can be the first to spot things unfolding and bring those insights to their clients.”
With 2024 ushering in an unprecedented election year with an estimated 4 billion people around the world — including the U.S., U.K., India, and Indonesia — headed to the polls, and representing roughly two-thirds of global market GDP, those insights will be needed.
“Elections can have policy consequences,” said Sahu. “Investment markets try to wrap their heads around that, both in the run-up to them and then after the elections. That creates an opportunity for investors. It also creates a need for our analysts to help investors think through resulting policy changes.”