The recoveries and re-openings of economies around the globe ebbed and flowed last year as workforces returned to offices — and then left again amid new Covid-19 variants and lockdowns. 

But if 2020 was a year marked by uncertainty — from the pandemic to subsequent market volatility and upended work environments — it could be argued that 2021 was much of the same, with one exception.

“For sell-side research and, perhaps for the rest of humanity, it was a year of resilience,” said Dan Dowd, global head of research at UBS.  “There was certainly a hope towards the end of 2020 that 2021 would be quite normal, which it clearly wasn’t.”

With the majority of client interactions continuing to happen virtually thanks to Zoom or the phone, and many analysts now back to working from home due to the Omicron variant, the sell-side industry is both firmly planted in this “new normal” and looking to the future. “In 2021, the research process started to take the pandemic as much more a part of what’s going on as opposed to the only thing that’s going on,” he said.

While there was great progress toward economic recovery and re-opening around the globe, “much remains to be done as the recovery was uneven, incomplete, and often interrupted by new virus outbreaks and scares,” observed Marko Kolanovic, chief global market strategist and co-head of global research for JPMorgan Chase & Co. 

“The performance of various investment strategies was often thrown off by new Covid waves, which led to market volatility, movements in the yield curve, and style rotations,” he added. “This environment yielded opportunities to use our analytical expertise and toolkit to come up with answers, despite being in uncharted waters in many respects.”

It’s often said that smooth seas never make a skilled sailor, and the uncharted waters of 2021 provided many opportunities for global research providers to shine. The only question: which firms proved the most invaluable to the buy side?

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