How the Top Sell-Side Firms Get Asia Sales Right
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How the Top Sell-Side Firms Get Asia Sales Right

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Illustration by II Research

J.P. Morgan defends its crown in II Research's annual ranking of sales teams in the region

It was another tough year in Asia, but the region’s top sales teams remained resolute.

“The China market has continued to be challenging over the last year, with fundamental investors generally being much more cautious about investment in that market,” according to Sara Perring, head of Asia Pacific equities distribution at J.P. Morgan.

In 2023, the Chinese markets faced formidable hurdles, confirmed UBS's Raymond Chan, co-head of global markets distribution in Asia and Japan. “[The markets were] marked by unprecedented outflows and a notable decline in investor confidence, precipitating a redirection of capital towards other countries in APAC,” he said.

Propelled by the post-Covid reopening in China, there was an initial surge in confidence, but subsequent market dynamics were overshadowed by escalating geopolitical tensions between the US and China, alongside sluggish fiscal spending and significant strain within the property sector, Chan said. “The subsequent policy adjustments and bond issuances in China failed to sufficiently assuage investor concerns, and only until earlier this year did we see further measures that are market friendly which addresses some of these issues,” he added.

Though volumes in the market remained healthy overall driven by investor focus on other types of strategies, added Perring, and fundamental investors continued to be interested in China. She reported that demand for the country’s analysts over the past year was high, and J.P. Morgan organized multiple large bespoke trips for global investors into China and just held its China Summit that clocked nearly 3000 attendees.

Outside of China, and excluding Japan, India has been a large focus in the region. “India has also been in high demand, and this continues despite high valuations, as investors are convinced of multi-year structural growth prospects,” Perring said.

Amid all this activity, J.P. Morgan holds onto the top spot in II Research’s annual survey of sales coverage in Asia.

After taking the crown last year, the firm is once again No. 1 based on more than 1,200 voters representing nearly 600 buy-side firms ranking sales coverage of specific countries in the region, excluding Japan.

On the commission-based leaderboard, Morgan Stanley rose two spots to take second place this year while UBS placed third. BofA Securities and Citi were fourth and fifth, respectively.

When ranking their sell-side firms, buy-side voters were asked to consider sales team’s abilities across 6 attributes: adding value to research; providing global context; market knowledge and feel; generating ideas; service and responsiveness; and understanding client needs.

Perring credited J.P. Morgan’s ability to focus on APAC as a whole in addition to “our breadth, depth and quality of our research and overall franchise in all markets, helps our overall business to continue to take market share, even when certain markets are challenging.”

Capital markets were an area that has been particularly difficult this year, especially for China, Perring added. While this is not in itself surprising, the contrast to such business in the U.S. and EMEA has been stark.

Amid these obstacles, focusing on a collaborative team approach across sales, research, and trading, not just within countries, but across the whole of APAC, was key, according to Perring. “The strength of our partnership and our ability to leverage the entire franchise has been critical to our success as a sales team,” she said.

At UBS, Chan reported that the firm’s “robust presence and strength” in the APAC markets, particularly in China, meant that the firm was able to help clients navigate last year’s slow down as well as the rebound in the Chinese markets this year—but it was not without adjustments to its sales team. “The reallocation of resourcing needs from investors necessitates a corresponding adjustment in our sales strategy to effectively meet this evolving demand,” Chan said.

This was bolstered by UBS’ acquisition of Credit Suisse in 2023, which enhanced its service offering and deepened its footprint across the region. “UBS is seeing tangible benefits from the integration of Credit Suisse, as it differentiates us in all areas across the bank,” Chan said. “For our clients that consume advisory resourcing, we are seeing a robust and improved capital markets pipeline, enhanced offering from research with increased number of stocks covered and more II ranked analysts in critical sectors.”

This integration was recently on display in May as UBS hosted one of Credit Suisse’s longstanding events in the region—the 27th annual Asia Investment Conference (AIC) in Hong Kong, which attracted more than 3,000 attendees from 28 countries this year. “We see a lot of opportunities when it comes to widening our footprint, and the power of collaboration gives us new ideas to be innovative with client solutions,” Chan concluded.

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