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Nomura Sales Victory Caps Turbulent Year

For a second consecutive year, the Nomura Securities Co. crew takes top honors on the All-Japan Sales Team.

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A series of insider trading scandals linked to equity salespeople at Japan's biggest brokerages dominated the headlines through much of last year and prompted the resignation of Nomura Holdings' chief executive officer Kenichi Watanabe and chief operating officer Takumi Shibata in July. The nation's securities regulator, the Financial Services Agency, pledged to strengthen penalties for insider trading and as of late last month reportedly was proposing prison sentences of up to five years and fines of up to ¥5 million ($53,000) for people who leak information, as well as fines of up to ¥500 million for firms that employ them, according to Bloomberg News.

The controversy has cast a pall over what would otherwise be the sunniest time in years for Japan's equity sales teams. The nation's stock market was the world's best performer in the first three months of 2013, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index surging more than 19 percent — nearly double the S&P 500 index's 10 percent advance. The Nikkei has soared roughly 43 percent since mid-November, investor enthusiasm fueled in part by the economic stimulus strategy Shinzo Abe pledged to implement if elected prime minister (which he was, in December).

Demand for Japanese equities and insights into the likely effects of so-called Abenomics is high, sell-side research analysts report, and that's keeping equity salespeople very busy. Institutional Investor asked participants in All-Japan Research Team survey to tell us which firms field the most effective sales forces, and for a second consecutive year, the Nomura Securities Co. crew takes top honors on the All-Japan Sales Team.

"Whatever I need, they get it," declares one Tokyo-based portfolio manager. (We keep confidential the names of survey participants and their firms to ensure their continuing cooperation.) "They go out of their way to be helpful."

A New York–based investor dubs the Nomura team "very client focused, very helpful in setting up meetings with managements and very quick to respond to my requests."

Daiwa Securities Group rises one rung to second place, bumping UBS down a notch to third. Bank of America Merrill Lynch climbs from No. 5 to No. 4. Rounding out the top five is SMBC Nikko Securities, which didn't rank last year.

The 2013 All-Japan Sales Team reflects the opinions of nearly 670 money managers and buy-side analysts at 265 institutions managing an estimated $718.5 billion in Japanese equity assets; roughly 74 percent of the people who cast votes in the broader research survey, representing 95 percent of the participating asset management firms, responded to our question about the best sales teams.

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