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Investors Pick Asia's Top Corporate Access Providers

Participants in the All-Asia Research Team survey tell us which sell-side firms provide the best access to chief executives at the companies they cover.

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“Client demand for face-to-face meetings with corporate executives has been robust, increasing by 15 percent year-on-year,” reports Richard Boseley, Hong Kong–based head of Asia-Pacific equity sales for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Investors are taking an active interest in the shift under way in various economies, particularly China, and in the regional corporate sectors.”

His crosstown counterpart at Morgan Stanley, Vincent Chui, says money managers are seeking insights they can’t get anywhere else. “Stock markets have become a lot more efficient owing to the proliferation of electronic trading and tactical investing,” he explains. “Informational advantage is hard to obtain and even harder to sustain. While corporate spokespersons are expected to observe blue-sky rules when communicating to investors during private meetings, their general views on the sector or on business trends might allow attendees to gain an edge when analyzing the outlook of the company.”

This year, for the first time, Institutional Investor asked participants in the All-Asia Research Team survey to indicate which sell-side firms provide the best access to chief executives at the companies they cover. BofA Merrill and Morgan Stanley share top honors on our inaugural roster of Asia’s Top Corporate Access Providers; each firm ranks in every one of the survey’s 19 industry sectors. However, when it comes to quality of access in those sectors, BofA Merrill is the clear favorite, landing at No. 1 nine times; Morgan Stanley, only once.

Citi ranks third overall, with 18 positions, including three first-place finishes. Rounding out the top five are UBS, with 16 total and two No. 1 appearances; and Credit Suisse, with 14 and zero, respectively. These results are based on responses from nearly 1,600 investors at more than 700 institutions that collectively manage an estimated $1.36 trillion in Asia ex-Japan equities; that’s roughly 51 percent of the people who cast votes in the broader research team survey, and they represent 71 percent of the participating buy-side institutions.

“‘No’ is not in their vocabulary,” declares one Morgan Stanley supporter. (The names of the investors surveyed and the firms they work for are kept confidential to ensure their continuing cooperation.) “They have maintained a strong culture of service in providing corporate access and facilitating meetings with managements.”

An advocate of the BofA Merrill team is equally enthusiastic. “They respond very quickly and arrange the meetings I request,” this Hong Kong–based fund manager attests. “They don’t disappoint.”

David Juxon oversees research marketing for the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, at BofA Merrill. “Our annual Japan and China conferences appeal to a broad range of clients; both are cross-asset-class and global in nature, providing a broader context than traditional equity conferences,” he says. “Likewise, our India, [South] Korea, Taiwan, and [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] conferences provide executive-level access to corporates. All these events highlight our global commitment to delivering high-quality research to clients.”

Juxon, who works out of Hong Kong, anticipates a significant turnout for the firm’s gathering on Japan in September, “given the broad activity in this market,” and on China in November, “which provides clients the perfect opportunity to think about global supply and demand issues across various sectors for 2014.”

Morgan Stanley is also planning for a big crowd at its 12th annual Asia-Pacific Summit, to be held in November in Singapore. “We expect more than 2,000 investors and 270 companies to attend,” Chui says. “James Gorman, our CEO, will be among the keynote speakers.”

Despite the crowd, attendees will receive individual attention, he notes. “Corporate access is always about providing one-on-one or small-group access for investors to interact with business and government leaders,” Chui observes. “This focus on private meetings applies to our major conferences as well as the numerous thematic and one-on-one trips that take place around the region, most of which are set up as a result of specific discussions between clients and our analysts.”

Last year the firm arranged some 58,000 meetings for clients that invest in Asian equities, he adds.

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