II Research Commentary
Early January gave no hint of the global disruption that was to follow, as II Research prepared the launch of the second Asian Survey using the new commission-based methodology. The survey launched on 3rd February, immediately after the Chinese New Year holiday, despite pressure to postpone; such a delay would have subsequently impacted the Europe Survey due to start on 2nd March, and thereafter the remainder of the II survey calendar for the year.
Buy side, sell side and corporates were adjusting to the evolving crisis and adjusting to a working from home environment; the sell side, well used to meeting face-to-face with their clients were suddenly bereft of the opportunity to physically lobby for votes. Mentioning the II survey came very low on the priority list and there was some concern that voting numbers would be low. Once the industry had settled to the new “norm”, voting recovered, and in the European survey we reached 133,000 votes against a total of 140,000 in 2019. 1,751 buy-side firms voted, a rise from 1,640 in the previous year.
The Asia survey drew to a close on 28th February and on Monday 2nd March, the Europe, Emerging EMEA and UK Small & Mid-Cap surveys launched. At this stage, the UK government was only considering lockdown measures, the death toll in Italy was 34 and France cautioned against “la bise” as a form of greeting. 2020 presented a unique challenge as the first combined Extel and II Europe Survey on a new portal was presented to clients habituated to other voting systems. Add the headwinds of a global pandemic and it was no surprise to see voting levels low in Week 1. As lockdown hit in Week 2, voting levels dropped significantly and we took the decision to continue the survey but extend the close date to mid-April. As in Asia, the sell side felt it was inappropriate to lobby for votes in the chaotic first two weeks of lockdown; in particular, we felt pressure applied from local and regional brokers that had not, perhaps, experienced the impact of the Covid crisis in Asia on voting. Voting in Europe did, however, recover to deliver around 58,000 company level votes from 1,300 buy-side firms and a huge spike on the final day of 12,500 votes cast. By June, the Covid-19 crisis was mature and most of the industry was well-adjusted to the new environment and we received no requests to postpone the US & Canada Survey.
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