Equity sales teams may have adapted to remote work — but there’s still no beating in-person interactions for the top firms and their buy-side clients.
“The last year reinforced the deep value in face-to-face interaction,” said Nick Savone, global head of institutional equities sales at Morgan Stanley. “As 2021 progressed and many clients returned to their offices, we found that client interest to interact in person was very high. Oftentimes, especially in early days of 2021, we were told that we were the first bank investors saw in person during the pandemic.”
Savone expects a hybrid approach — with both in-person and virtual engagement across analyst marketing, corporate access, global advisory, and sector sales teams — to remain dominant, as it has opened up a great deal of flexibility for the firm and its clients. But ultimately, he said, “this is a people-driven business,” he said.
And the people have spoken: Morgan Stanley is once again No. 1 in Institutional Investor’s 2021 All-America Sales Team, an annual ranking of the Wall Street firms with the best sales professionals. The bank extended its reign in specialist sales for a fifth straight year, while also defending its newly won title in the generalist sales category.
As part of the wider All-America Research Team survey — where Morgan Stanley took third overall and first in the Hedge Fund Cut — II invited the directors of research and investment professionals at asset management firms with a research budget of at least $250,000 to vote for the best generalist and specialist sales teams. The survey results were then weighted by each respondent’s commission spend to produce leaderboards in each category.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. repeated its second-place finish in generalist sales, followed by BofA Securities in third. Goldman Sachs improved on last year’s sixth place finish to take fourth. UBS fell one spot to round out the top five.
In the specialist division, second place went to UBS, followed by BofA Securities in third. Jeffries placed fourth, while Evercore ISI jumped from tenth place in 2020 to No. 5 this year.
Voters were asked to consider six attributes when ranking their top providers. These included the ability to add value to research, generate ideas, provide a global context, understand client needs, and demonstrate market knowledge and feel, as well as service and responsiveness.
Morgan Stanley topped all of these attributes but one. Second-place finisher JPMorgan was recognized for its team’s service and responsiveness.
“Our sales team has a deep knowledge of our clients’ investment process and a tremendous ability to wed our investment advice to it,” said Daniel Antonelli, JPMorgan’s head of global equity sales in North America. “We are in front of our clients consistently with highly relevant research ideas, corporate access, and equity deal issuance.
“The past year was particularly challenging because most engagement with our clients has been virtual, not in person,” he added. “We are currently operating with a hybrid virtual/in-person coverage model, and we’ve worked hard to remain highly visible in every manner.”
Morgan Stanley’s Savone concurred that it has been a year of many challenges but also meaningful opportunities.
“The biggest concerns [from clients] from an investment perspective is how to think about investing in a rising rate environment as well as navigating the global geopolitical challenge around potential regulation and changes in policy,” he said. “As it has been challenging keeping pace with global and regional indices, institutional investors are continuing to assess the various constituencies in the market and various factors driving returns. Positioning and expectations around year-over-year revenue and earnings-per-share growth has become ever more important in a unique period where technology disruption and consumer trends have evolved massively.”
Savone said Morgan Stanley engages with clients to help better understand market dynamics where consensus expectations have evolved and provide unique tools to manage risk.
To that end, Morgan Stanley also placed first for overall trading and execution in the newly returned All-America Trading Team. Back for the first time since 2018, the ranking is based on the views of buy-side traders and other investment professionals who rated their top trading and execution teams across four main categories: electronic, high-touch sales, portfolio/program, and Delta One/ETF.
JPMorgan placed second, followed by BofA Securities in third. Goldman Sachs and UBS placed fourth and fifth, respectively.