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The 2017 All-Asia Sales Team

Credit Suisse unseats two-time champion Morgan Stanley in our sixth-annual ranking of the region’s best equity sales squads.

As investors return to the Asian equity markets after a long dry spell, a new champion was crowned in Institutional Investor’s sixth annual All-Asia Sales Team ranking of the region’s best sales teams.

Credit Suisse’s Asia ex-Japan equity sales group ranked best overall in the 2017 survey of money managers and buy-side analysts, jumping up three spots from last year’s fourth-place finish and beating out competitors including Morgan Stanley, which slid to third after back-to-back first-place finishes.

Voters singled out Credit Suisse as having the best understanding of client needs, being the most proactive about facilitating access to its research analysts, and overall fostering high-quality relationships with investors. Albert Park, Credit Suisse’s head of Asia-Pacific equity sales, says the firm has prioritized maintaining a presence across the different Asian markets, even as a “challenging” environment for sales has put pressure on investment banks to cut costs.

For the last several years, investors had largely spurned emerging-markets equities, including the stock markets in Asian countries such as China, India, and South Korea. Recently, however, investors have shown renewed interest in these markets — a trend Park calls overdue.

“It’s good to see investors and fund flow coming back into emerging markets,” he adds.

In addition to money flowing back into Asia in general, certain sectors have also gotten a boost over the past year, notes Chris Hunt, head of Asia-Pacific equity distribution at UBS. Specifically, he points to a shift by investors toward more cyclical sectors, as well as technology-related stocks.

Still, Hunt says, the brokerage industry is shrinking — though he adds that the firm has continued to invest selectively in its sales efforts, for example the recent buildout of UBS’s China onshore advisory offering, as well as a “number of changes” to ensure a more seamless and client-centric coverage model.

The investments paid off in this year’s All-Asia Sales roster: UBS claimed the No. 2 spot, edging ahead of last year’s third-place finish. The sales team earned praise for its overall quality of service and responsiveness, as well as its effective communication of Asia-Pacific research.

The top five was rounded out by Citi and CLSA, which each climbed two spots, to fourth and fifth place, respectively. Angus Richardson, Citi’s head of Pan-Asia cash sales, attributes his firm’s rise in the rankings to the sales team’s “ability to deliver high value for our clients in a timely manner.”

Like Hunt and Park, however, Richardson says the industry has become more competitive, particularly as clients’ advisory budgets continue to come under pressure. As a result, he suggests, the region’s brokers will be forced to consolidate as top global brokers take on a larger share of the market.

“It’s been quite challenging,” Park agrees. “All investment banks have been trying to be as efficient as possible in Asia-Pacific and globally.”

For Credit Suisse, Park adds, becoming more efficient has meant embracing new technologies and electronic execution platforms. It’s also expanded its client coverage to appeal to a broader audience than traditional long-only clients, including high-frequency traders and exchange-traded funds, as well as quantitative funds.

“To be a top sales franchise today, you need to be able to do well across the mix of clients,” he says.