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J.P. Morgan Takes Lead on All-America Sales Team

J.P. Morgan climbs one notch to seize the top spot on the 2012 All-America Sales Team, Institutional Investor’s ranking of the best sales forces serving investors in U.S. equities.

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october 15, 2012 The All-America Research Teamoctober 16, 2012 The All-America Trading Team october 16, 2012 America's Top Corporate Access Providersoctober 18, 2012

Clive A. Correia, a senior securities analyst with Columbus Circle Investors in Stamford, Connecticut, has an unwavering opinion as to which brokerage provides the best support to investors in U.S. equities.

“Having spent the past decade at a multibillion-dollar investment firm with more than 200 active salespeople at any given point in time, I can confidently say that J.P. Morgan is No. 1,” he declares. Members of the team “excel at everything one could want in sales — creating a strong pipeline of communication between their analysts and clients, providing excellent access to company managements, demonstrating a solid fundamental knowledge of all their covered stocks and understanding each of their clients’ individual investment disciplines.”

Many portfolio managers share Correia’s view: J.P. Morgan climbs one notch to seize the top spot on the 2012 All-America Sales Team, Institutional Investor’s second annual ranking of the best sales forces serving investors in U.S. equities. Last year’s winner, Morgan Stanley, slips to second place, while Deutsche Bank Securities holds steady at No. 3. Rounding out the top five are Barclays and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which switch positions this year for fourth and fifth places, respectively. Results reflect the opinions of some 2,000 buy-side analysts and money managers at more than 800 firms that manage approximately $8.77 trillion in U.S. equity assets. Roughly 61 percent of the people who cast votes in the All-America Research Team survey, representing 84.8 percent of the participating buy-side institutions, answered our question about which firms provide the best sales support.

“The mandate of our sales teams is to be highly relevant to the investment processes of our clients,” explains J.P. Morgan’s Michael Bossidy, who oversees distribution for the Americas from New York. The firm has about 60 salespeople, with offices in London to serve clients across Europe, and in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Francisco to work with investors in the Americas. “Corporate access is an important part of our model — along with capital markets, research and idea generation.”

The firm’s sales staff does all of those things remarkably well, according to one New York–based money manager. (Unless instructed otherwise, we keep confidential the identities of survey respondents and their firms to ensure their continuing cooperation.) “They have been the consistently great firm year after year,” she says. “Although my vote is for this year, I would have said the same thing last year, and the year before that and the five years before that.”

The firm’s unflinching commitment to its customers is especially noteworthy, this investor adds, in light of the ongoing unpredictability of the markets. “Commissions and soft dollars have been volatile for every firm the past few years because of the financial crisis, but J.P. Morgan is the one firm where service has not been impacted by the volatility,” she says. “They have been consistently great day in and day out.”

One buy-side analyst in the Boston area says it’s the personal touch that distinguishes this crew from the rest. “About a year or two ago, we were approached by John Collmer and his team,” he recalls. “I think it was getting to know these guys outside of the office that helped build stronger relationships. For example, a few of the people on my team commute to the South Shore of Boston on a boat. The J.P. Morgan sales team invited us to dinner — but not in Boston. We met on the South Shore. Several of their folks joined us on the commute home, had dinner and then returned to Boston on a later boat. That made life easy for us, and it felt much more informal and genuine.”

That first meeting was very relaxed, this analyst adds. “We really didn’t talk business. We talked about our families, hobbies — even politics. Building those personal foundations really goes a long way. I feel like I know these guys better than most sales teams, and if I picked up a phone, they would be there to help out.”

The Philadelphia crew — William Freeman, Joshua Maeulen, David Reller, Paul Sablich and Matthew Wukitsch — draws especially effusive praise. “We receive superior coverage from them for a number of reasons,” says one client at an asset management firm on the Main Line. “Their local presence allows us to form more-personal relationships. Their salespeople talk to each other constantly, so having a conversation with one of them is like having a conversation with all of them. They are responsive to the feedback we give them about which companies we want to learn more about, so they don’t inundate us with stuff that isn’t of interest. And they are good advocates in getting marketing trips from companies to our region.”

He says the team arranges about 50 meetings a year — “the most of any firm” — about two thirds of which are with representatives of publicly traded companies and the rest with J.P. Morgan researchers.

“Josh Maeulen and the Philadelphia team routinely facilitate one-on-one meetings in my Trenton [New Jersey] office,” says another client. “The team is highly visible and consistently visits my office with analysts, economists and corporate leaders. The team does not regurgitate Street morning research — it correctly deduces what is necessary for a brief but actionable morning call.”

Adds a third Philadelphia-area fan: “They are a very responsive team when it comes to keeping us up to speed on important research items.”

Correia, of Columbus Circle Investors, says much of the credit for his high opinion of the J.P. Morgan sales efforts goes to Bossidy; Daniel Antonelli, head of the New York group; Brayden Mathews; and Jose Yearwood.

The Morgan Stanley delegation is also celebrated for its customer service. “We find the Morgan Stanley sales team to be highly competent and attuned to the needs of their clients,” says Jonathan Saunders, chief operating officer at Crawford Fund Management in Boston. “They have thorough, in-depth knowledge of their sectors and are proactive at planning conferences and company road shows to help the investment community be more knowledgeable and make better investment decisions.”

That’s all part of the job, according to Nick Savone, who with Suzanne Charnas oversees the firm’s U.S. equity research sales operations in New York. “Clients expect our sales team to deliver solutions that will assist them in all facets of portfolio management — equity research, derivatives ideas, hedging solutions and commission management,” he says. “We see ourselves as solution providers more so than the historic role of solely selling research.”

Buy-siders see the firm that way too. “They are a very client-focused shop, as opposed to risk- and proprietary-focused,” says one.

Several respondents sing the praises of Michael Florin, described by one as “the most knowledgeable salesperson specializing in the media and telecommunications space.” This fan notes in particular that “Mike’s morning trailer is the comprehensive guide to what will move the stocks over the next 24 hours, the next week and in the months ahead. He is always accessible, eager to help and excellent on follow-up — and he has done a great job arranging corporate access.”

Another advocate is more succinct: “Mike’s the best — best coverage, most responsive, best informed.”

Others buy-siders called attention to John Davi (“he is excellent”), James Spencer Gantsoudes (“he is very good about highlighting the important things without constant, overwhelming contact”) and Austin Zeigler (“his earnings recaps are a lifesaver!”).

Savone notes that one of his team’s strengths is its flexibility. “We tailor our offering based on the markets and investment needs of our clients, while continuing to believe in the sector sales model to deliver specific expertise,” he explains. In addition, “the demand for one-on-one [meetings] and bespoke trips continues to grow, and our ability to manage supply and demand remains a key focus for all of our events. The number of other corporate-access events continues to increase and is creating a landscape of differentiated offerings across the Street, which we believe positions us very well given our global footprint and product focus.”

Deutsche Bank places a similar emphasis on sector specialists and providing corporate access. When it comes to pointing out which ones shine, “I’m happy to name names — Travis Finkle,” attests one Boston-based supporter. “Travis provides the perfect mix of highlighting insightful, differentiated research calls; providing access to analysts; and understanding what we’re looking for in terms of corporate access. It sounds easy, but few do it well.”

Adds a counterpart at a crosstown firm: “Travis Finkle epitomizes Deutsche Bank’s can-do attitude. He is diligent, thoughtful, never glib — and always has my back.”

A Philadelphia-area money manager is similarly enthusiastic about Eileen Cameron. “She does a great job getting us meetings, filling our agendas at conferences, responding to requests and so on. I think she’s one of the best salespeople in the country!”

Deutsche Bank’s 51-member squad — working out of offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto and Zurich — is captained by Brett Burns, who divides his time between Boston and New York. “We pride ourselves on having a U.S. sales team that has both deep product knowledge and senior client relationships,” he says. “We continue to optimize our sales strategy versus the competition for the current environment and our various client needs.”

And they’re doing a bang-up job, according to one portfolio manager in New York. “The sales team stays focused on my specific needs and the specific needs of the organization where I work,” this booster says. “They give us what we want without wasting our time.”

An investor in New England underscores this last point. “They don’t spend my time with unnecessary calls but know when to call to offer meetings or events that help to accomplish my work,” he says. “In the technology and telecommunications sectors, Deutsche Bank offers the best dual coverage on the Street, with a very responsive regional sales team and an opinionated sector specialist, Marc Nickley.”

A New York client seconds that view. “Deutsche Bank’s specialty tech sales is the clear leader on the Street. Specifically, Marc Nickley is a great salesman — the best at capturing global news daily, and he is very responsive.”

One loyalist appreciates the fact that Michael Sullivan, who covers the energy sector, “talks to all of the major energy investors around the Street and is a great resource to gauge the mood of the market.” Another credits Shannon Mullen, who follows utilities, with being “exceptional at delivering real-time information to her clients. She is especially adept at understanding when news is pertinent to the investment thesis.”

Team leader Burns notes that investor needs have been changing. “Over the past two years, our clients have been very focused on macro research, given the crisis in Europe and the potential implications from it. However, as correlation has fallen, we have seen our clients return to individual, bottom-up stock selection for their portfolios,” he explains. “We clearly have been able to help clients navigate through the crisis on the macro side, given our global footprint. However, now that individual stock picking is back in vogue, this too plays to our strength, as it’s a strong part of our research and sales DNA to drive tailored, alpha-generating solutions for our clients’ investment processes.”

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