When navigating a volatile political and economic landscape, there is nothing like getting in the same room with people, according to the top corporate access providers for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Citing a “complicated” environment in developed Europe, Camille Lemercier, co-head of corporate and expert access at BNP Paribas Exane, said the big theme over the past year has been the appetite from both corporates and investors for a return to face-to-face meetings.
“Political and security instability in Europe combined with the sharp rises in energy prices have forced both companies and investors to challenge some long-held assumptions, driving a lot of demand for high quality dialogue between management teams and portfolio managers,” she said. “But at the same time, we’ve had to be reactive to changing travel rules post-pandemic, managing investors’ new work from home balance and exploring hybrid options.”
The emphasis on in-person interactions after pivoting to a virtual world during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic is similar in the markets of emerging Europe, Middle East and Africa, according to Camille Asmar, head of equity sales for Europe and Emerging Markets at HSBC. “In one sentence: pretty much ‘back to basics’ in emerging EMEA, in a post-Covid world,” he said.
“[Corporates and investors] want both in-person interactions and to re-connect, in person, between themselves,” he added. “Both parties insist on this and we are here to bridge that interaction through physical reverse roadshows, non-deal roadshows and our flagship conferences globally, for example.”
The corporate access industry — one previously marked by large conferences and road shows and one-on-meetings meetings between investors and management — appears to have not just survived its “trial by fire” of the past two years, but is thriving.
And so are the members of Institutional Investor’s 2022 rankings of the Top Corporate Access Providers for Developed Europe and Emerging EMEA, according to participants of in II’s research team and executive team surveys for both regions.
The survey respondents — representing both the buy-side and corporate point of view — provided feedback on the firms that have the best overall corporate access, while also ranking them across multiple attributes. For the buy-side, these included: conferences; field trips; logistics; roadshows; team quality; and virtual events.
Corporate respondents were asked to consider five attributes when ranking sell-side firms and third-party providers: feedback, investor introductions, nondeal road shows, site visits, and virtual conferences.
In the Emerging EMEA ranking, HSBC was once again voted number one overall corporate access team by the buy-side. BofA Securities and JPMorgan Chase & Co. repeated their second- and third-place performances from 2021. EFG-Hermes was most improved from last year’s top ten, rising to the fourth spot from seventh. Morgan Stanley rounded out the top five.
HSBC also topped half of the attributes, placing first in conferences, logistics, and team quality. Meanwhile, BofA Securities was recognized for field trips and virtual events.
Corporates voted Goldman Sachs as their No. 1 corporate access provider this year, followed by HSBC in second. JPMorgan placed third, while Wood & Co. and EFG Hermes took fourth and fifth, respectively.
In Developed Europe, Kepler Cheuvreux improved one spot to take No. 1. Last year’s winner, BNP Paribas Exane, placed second. There were further shakeups down the board, with JPMorgan rising from fourth to third, and Jeffries moving up from eighth place to take fourth. UBS improved two spots on 2021’s performance to place fifth.
Kepler Cheuvreux was recognized for its conferences, roadshows, and team quality, while BNP Paribas Exane earned plaudits for logistics and virtual events.
Corporates agreed with their buy-side counterparts and awarded Kepler Cheuvreux the top spot in the Developed Europe ranking as well. BNP Paribas Exane placed second, followed by Berenberg in third and BofA Securities in fourth. Morgan Stanley cracked the top five.
While corporate access has been unshaken by the pandemic, it has been forever changed. Video meetings will be a permanent part of this industry, according to BNPP Exane’s Lemercier, “just as they are for the majority of people in the services and knowledge economy.”
“The convenience, cost-effectiveness, time-efficiency, and sustainability arguments are too powerful for a full return to the old way of working,” she said. “However, the need for in-person interactions has not gone away. Almost everyone accepts that the two will co-exist. Deciding which approach is most valid is an important judgement to make when planning an event.”
HSBC’s Asmar echoed the sentiment. “We are operating in a hybrid world,” he said. “The virtual model is here to stay and we are offering it to our clients in parallel to physical in-person events.”
Asmar credits the longevity of his team and a local approach to his firm’s continued success in corporate access in emerging markets, where on-the-ground intelligence is paramount. “As with our equity sales team, the tenure and dynamism of our corporate access team is a big differentiator — highly-qualified professionals who are very well connected locally to deliver the best access a client or company could hope for,” he said.