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The Go-To Bank for Inside Access to Emerging Markets

As Saudi Arabia nears index status, investors in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are seeking first-hand knowledge with the help of their favorite corporate access providers.

Investors seeking an edge in Western emerging markets have a go-to source for local knowledge and access to public companies: Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

BofA Merrill Lynch was chosen by the buy-side as the top corporate access provider in emerging Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, coming first in Institutional Investor’s inaugural ranking. 

More than 260 investors at 172 firms overseeing some $382 billion in equities across the region voted for their favorite providers, based on services such as one-on-one meetings with executives, factory tours, and investor conferences.

“Access to corporates in emerging markets can be more challenging,” said Simon Greenwell, head of EMEA research at BofA Merrill Lynch. “They are less accessible and the investor relations function is less developed as an intermediary.”

[II Deep Dive: JPMorgan Voted America’s Best Corporate Access Provider]

Having a local footprint, Greenwell added, is important to facilitate those meetings and give investors the access they need. BofA Merrill Lynch, for instance, benefits from having offices in Russia, Turkey, Africa, and the Middle East. The last of these, Greenwell said, has grown more important with the impending inclusion of Saudi Arabia in MSCI’s emerging markets index.

“Saudi has been a big deal,” he said. “If investors haven’t got a position in Saudi already, they’re looking at building one.”

Investing in a country for the first time can be challenging, but Greenwell felt that a strong corporate access provider can give investors more confidence about potential investment opportunities.

“We see corporate access as a very key component,” he said. “You need to provide investors with access to management and access to how a company works.”

For countries investors likely already have exposure to, like Russia, Greenwell said conversations with public company executives and local policymakers remain valuable, particularily in an uncertain geopolitical environment.

“With all of the volatility, investors appreciate the ability to meet people,” he said.

BofA Merrill Lynch beat out peers including second-place JPMorgan Chase & Co. and third-place Citi for the title of Emerging EMEA’s Top Corporate Access Provider, as voted for by money managers.

In addition to placing first among buy-side voters, BofA Merrill Lynch also came in second among the 55 corporate respondents participating in the survey. Goldman Sachs placed first, in that ranking, with UBS coming in third.

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