Following a four-year run at the top, Bank of America Merrill Lynch slips to second place. Hong Kong–based David Cui and Hong (Helen) Qiao manage a group of more than 50 researchers across China, Hong Kong and Singapore that provides research on 300 names. They impress one portfolio manager as possessing “a greater understanding of the Chinese market’s idiosyncrasies than other analysts.” In January 2015, BofA Merrill’s squad predicted that declining growth, rising leverage and a likely credit crunch would combine to cause notable market declines — and they were right. Through December the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, which tracks the performance of Hong Kong–listed Chinese companies, had slumped 19.4 percent, and red chips fell 4.6 percent. Although the mainland’s A and B shares overall rose 10.7 percent in 2015, they had given back 17.4 percent year to date through late last month. H shares and red chips fell 4.8 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively, over that period. “Opinionated and appropriately cautious, they have vast historical knowledge which is useful for evaluating current scenarios,” insists a second investor. Forty-eight-year-old Cui co-captained this crew last year with Ting Lu, who moved to China’s Huatai Securities Co. in May 2015. This year he and Ajay Kapur oversee the No. 3 Equity Strategy troupe. Qiao, 38, also directs the third-place squad on the Economics roster. She signed on with BofA Merrill in October from Morgan Stanley, whose China team she led to second place last year.