In 2022, equity analysts spent more time back on the road than ever — and institutional investors were waiting for them.
“The relaxation of travel and meeting restrictions globally has resulted in a sharp increase in in-person interactions between our analysts and our clients in 2022,” said Hussein Malik, co-head of global research for JPMorgan Chase & Co. “It also allowed us to expand our conference and event offerings, which were extremely well attended.”
The desire for direct access to experts has continued to increase since the pandemic, according to BofA Securities’ head of global research Candace Browning. “We’ve seen that continue to grow over the last couple of years, and 2022 was no exception to that,” she said. “Clients want to be educated about not only individual companies, but also new technologies. There’s this growing appetite for access to corporates, but also to an expert pipeline.”
Investors also demanded objective analysis on a real-time basis as the key drivers of company and market performance evolved. Noted Malik, “They also sought intelligence directly from corporate management teams, something our analysts had the access and relationships to provide.”
However, virtual engagement also remained a critical avenue to deliver meaningful value, Malik said. “We’ve also seen increasing demand for, and adoption of, our research data offerings and online analytical tools available on our J.P. Morgan Markets website in which we have and continue to invest,” he added.
The deluge of content has added to the evolution of research consumption, according to Katy Huberty, Morgan Stanley’s global director of research. “As the amount of information available to clients grows, they’re looking for new ways to consume our content,” she said. “One standout is podcasts, a medium where we’ve already gained significant traction.” In October last year, Morgan Stanley’s “Thoughts on the Market” podcast series surpassed 1 million monthly downloads for the first time, cracking the top 200 of all podcasts (not just investing-related ones) on Apple’s platform.
Whether they took advantage of face-to-face interactions or more virtual offerings, respondents to Institutional Investor’s 2022 equity research surveys rewarded a recognizable slate of leading firms.
JPMorgan held onto the crown as the top equity research firm, after toppling four-year incumbent UBS last year. It extended its number of team positions from 164 to 170 for stock coverage across the U.S., developed Europe, Latin America, Asia, China, Japan, and the emerging markets of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
JPMorgan also repeated in first in II’s overall ranking of the Global Research Leaders and held onto No. 1 for fixed-income coverage —an impressive hat trick in what was an overall challenging year for global markets.
“Central banks raised rates beyond start-of-year expectations and the market environment was difficult,” said Marko Kolanovic, PhD, chief global markets strategist and co-head of global research at JPMorgan. “However, there were key trends and turning points across sectors — energy for example — and global markets that afforded opportunities.”
Kolanovic credited JPM’s success to its large, global team “of talented and seasoned analysts with market-leading breadth of coverage across geographies, asset classes and sectors.”
“Our longstanding presence in so many markets affords us both access to market leaders and an understanding of local conditions,” he said. “This breadth, combined with investments in data and resources to aid our analysts, allow us to deliver timely and deep insights. We also stand apart in being able to package this to deliver cross asset and global perspectives.” As one example, Kolanovic cited the firm’s annual outlook pieces, which aim to help clients position themselves each year.
Next up on the equity research leaderboard is BofA Securities, which improved from third place last year. The bank added five additional equity team positions this year for a total of 152. UBS was down one position to take third place, and Morgan Stanley once again secured fourth. Citi rounded out the top five.
BofA’s Browning cited the firm’s commitment to collaboration and coverage as an important differentiator. “You need to have the individual great ideas of the individual sector analysts and you need to have the coverage,” said Browning. “By that I mean, you need to have the breadth to be covering sectors, even when they’re out of favor. Because we all know they come back in favor very quickly, and you need to be able to field a great analyst right away.”
More market upsets seem likely in 2023, with the expected economic slowdown and likely recession. According to Kolanovic, the sell-side firms who seize the opportunities to connect the dots for their clients will thrive. “As the cycle turns, investors will again focus on bottom-up fundamentals of individual companies,” he said. “Sell-side research will need to make the connections between global macro developments, sector and corporate fundamentals, as well as technical parameters such as positioning and flows. Putting together pieces of this big market puzzle will at the same time be a challenge and present an opportunity for those that can do it successfully.”