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Banks Are Reimagining Corporate Access

J.P. Morgan is one of many middle men working to bring investors and executives together.

  • Carolyn Koo

From America's Top Corporate Access Providers 2016 ranking

In June, J.P. Morgan assembled top officers from over 120 companies at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel for the firm’s inaugural Energy Equity Investor Conference. The gathering, which gave investors the chance to hear presentations and attend meetings with executives, “was largely a result of feedback from clients,” says Daniel Antonelli, J.P. Morgan’s North America head of institutional equity sales. “This is an example of what J.P. Morgan is able to execute with the depth and breadth of our corporate relationships and research talent.”

For its efforts, the buy side has voted J.P. Morgan the No. 1 firm for the fifth straight year in Institutional Investor’s 2016 All-America Corporate Access ranking of sell-side firms that do the best job bringing executives and investors together.

This matchmaking takes place in increasingly inventive ways. For instance, Cowen & Co., which finishes in a three-way tie for No. 9 in buy-side voting on the strength of its health-care franchise, has its own dedicated corporate access group, says research chief Robert Fagin, run by Kelly Weigel, the head of client services. Weigel joined the firm in April 2014 and “really masterminded and reimagined the whole philosophy and execution behind corporate access, including having very deep sectorized expertise,” says Fagin. “We speak to the group multiple times a day. We’re extraordinarily coordinated, and that’s a huge advantage of being a more nimble firm.”

Part of that coordination involves research, sales, and corporate access engaged in, he says, “a tremendous amount of work coming up with a list of buy-siders who are going to be engaged in their story, both existing and new holders, and a good combination of buy-side analysts and portfolio managers.”

Corporate access has evolved well beyond the traditional meet-the-CEO. “We’ve seen stronger interest in investor tours, and supply-chain visits beyond the standard corporate management meeting,” says Antonelli.

Fagin notes that investors want “unique insight. In health care, the buy side wants to dive deeply not just into company strategy but the science and the technology, and that’s true across all sectors. They want to get into the nuts and bolts. They want to look at every widget. They want to know what the production lines look like.”

Company visits and conferences remain important. Cowen takes clients on bus tours to multiple companies. These meetings are relevant because “you get a very good feeling for the culture and the vibe of an organization when you go and visit them on their home turf,” Fagin says.

Cowen held its 36th annual Health Care Conference in March, featuring 265 companies, just under 1,900 attendees, and 4,465 one-on-one meetings. The firm also holds more specialized meetings, such as its first-ever FutureHealth conference in June and October’s MedTools, focused on diagnostics, genetics, and medical devices.

With so many opportunities to meet management, “we sense investors are becoming more selective about which events they’ll attend,” Antonelli says. Fagin concurs: Investors “want to know that they’ll learn something new, and they want to be able to have a true partnership with their sell-side research-and-sales counterparts, so they can be assured their time won’t be wasted.” •