It’s been more than a year since sales in Latin America went abruptly virtual for the region’s top providers and their clients.
“Like most of our colleagues, we downloaded Zoom for the first time in March and obviously it has transformed how business is done and access in general — but clients still demand and value quality over quantity,” said Ashley Farrar, head of U.S. sales at BTG Pactual.
When it comes to selecting the highest quality sales team in the region, investment professionals have chosen the domestic firm as the No. 1 member of Institutional Investor’s 2021 Latin America Sales Team.
Some 270 buy-side money managers at more than 200 firms elevated the sales provider from last year’s second place finish based on six attributes: value added to research, global context, idea generation, market knowledge and feel, service and responsiveness, and understanding of client needs.
BTG topped each of these categories with the exception of global context, where JPMorgan Chase & Co. was recognized. The global firm placed second in this year’s survey, followed by Bradesco BBI in third Santander repeated its fourth place finish, with Credit Suisse rounding out the top five.
“The advantage of global breadth with a combination of having ‘on the ground’ teams has and will continue to be our differentiating factor,” said Camila Penna, head of EMEA and Latin America cash equities sales and execution services sales at JPMorgan. “The current crisis did pose the opportunity for our sales team to enhance automation and optimize process.”
Penna reported that the firm has launched several new tools over the last year to provide a more customized offering to clients. The firm’s Latin America sales team now consists of regional sales specialists in over 8 different countries around the world.
At BTG Pactual, Farrar attributes her firm’s success to teamwork and collaboration. “We are a true team,” she said. “We view the business holistically so everyone does whatever it takes to provide the best product to our clients, which means working collaboratively, sharing best practices and best ideas, and making sure we treat each client individually, striving to differentiate and tailor product to their needs and individual investment process.”
The firm may have been well poised for the work-from-home-environment brought on by Covid-19, especially when it came to collaborating with research amid the crisis. “Having our team spread out all over the region and New York and London, we have always had to find ways to communicate more effectively and more often given the physical distance, and in some sense, maybe we were better prepared for the challenges of the pandemic because we already had this culture that is highly demanding when it comes to collaboration and communication,” Farrar said. “The added technology opened more channels for communication, but the end result was the same.”
That technology has proven to be a double-edge sword as firms and their clients navigate various country-specific lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19. “In some ways, virtual access helped level the playing field for brokers around the world, so over time our pipeline of events and research has become more creative and content-rich,” said JPMorgan’s Penna. “One of the concerns we hear from clients is their inability to do in-depth on the ground work due to travel restrictions. Figuring out what the future of access and conferences will look like once investors and corporates are ready to travel again will be key.”
Even though Latin American countries were hit especially hard by Covid-19, markets have been buoyed by all the liquidity and stimulus across the globe, and the region was no different, according to Farrar. This means there are new opportunities for the sell side in the region.
“In LatAm specifically, I only see the role for the sell side growing, at least for a firm like BTG that has such a dominant local presence across the region,” she said, adding that the buy side is becoming “less and less specialized” with far more global emerging markets and global mandates, rather than just Latin America or country-specific ones. This is happening at the same time as a record number of new companies are being listed in markets like Brazil and the region is becoming deeper and more sophisticated, according to Farrar.
In addition to topping the commission-weighted leaderboard, BTG Pactual topped an additional leaderboard of the top sales teams weighted by respondents’ assets under management. In these AUM-weighted results, JPMorgan placed second, followed by Bradesco BBI in third. Santander was fourth, and UBS leapt from the last year’s ninth-place position to take fifth.