For corporate access in Asia, the past year has been a tale of two regions.

“We are seeing a divergence of approach this year, with North Asia remaining largely virtual whereas ASEAN and Australia have started resuming in-person events,” according to Vivian Lee, head of APAC corporate access at UBS. “Over the past year there have been instances where physical events were converted into virtual ones at the last minute, which was disappointing, but we were surprised to see how quickly we could change from one format to another without causing disruption to our clients.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, corporate access — the service of bringing together institutional investors and corporate clients by sell-side firms — had to immediately pivot from in-person meetings, events, and road shows to a virtual offering with delivery channels via phone or enterprise video. While abrupt, this change was not without its silver linings, according to Jack Clein, Morgan Stanley’s head of equity distribution, Asia-Pacific, with corporates benefiting from reduced travel and investors benefiting from greater supply, variety, and easier access.

“Assuming a resumption of business travel in North Asia, we are confident that the importance of physical interaction has not been undermined during the pandemic,” Clein added. “A degree of virtual access is also here to stay — in particular, the diligence and fiduciary obligations for most managers will mean that a virtual offering will be a part of a bundled delivery of access.”

In fact, in this hybrid economic environment, demand for corporate access is higher than ever. “The thirst for ‘more’ is obvious,” Clein said. “Given the dramatic economic disruption we have experienced over the past two years, the need for content to help investors navigate an unclear path is paramount.” Sector-wise, Morgan Stanley’s team continues to see demand across a wide range of industries, with biotech, healthcare, and consumption, along with technology, media and telecom (TMT), among the standouts. 

Corporate access at Morgan Stanley is focused on three core elements: Generating relevant and topical access ideas; providing high-quality, differentiated access to senior management and industry experts; and executing its program with “a laser focus on seamless logistics,” according to Clein. 

“But ultimately, this question is best answered by our clients,” he added. “What we can say is that every day, we try to distinguish our offering through a combination of innovation, creativity, traditional hard work, and world-class execution.”

It appears that clients have responded: Morgan Stanley is once again No. 1 in Institutional Investor’s 2022 ranking of Asia’s top corporate access providers. The firm defended its title after reclaiming the crown last year in a competitive field. This year, J.P. Morgan improved one position to take second place, followed by UBS in third. Citi maintained its fourth-place finish, while Credit Suisse moved up one spot to round out the top five.

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