For business access in Asia, the past year has been a story of two regions.
“We are seeing a divergence in approach this year, with North Asia remaining largely virtual while ASEAN and Australia have begun to resume in-person events,” said Vivian Lee, APAC Business Access Manager. at UBS. “Over the past year there have been instances where physical events have been converted to virtual events at the last minute, which was disappointing, but we were surprised at how quickly we could go from one format to another without disrupting our customers.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, corporate access – the service that connects institutional investors and corporate clients through sell-side firms – had to immediately shift from meetings, events and from in-person road shows to a virtual offering with delivery channels via phone or corporate video. While abrupt, the change was not without its silver linings, according to Jack Clein, head of Morgan Stanley Asia-Pacific stock distribution, with companies benefiting from reduced travel and investors benefiting from an offer , of easier variety and 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 duties of most managers will mean that a virtual offering will be part of an access bundle.”
In fact, in this hybrid economic environment, the demand for enterprise access is higher than ever. “The thirst for ‘more’ is evident,” 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, the Morgan Stanley team continues to see demand across a wide range of industries, with biotechnology, healthcare and consumer, as well as technology, media and telecommunications (TMT), among the more remarkable.
Enterprise access at Morgan Stanley focuses on three main elements: generating relevant and timely access ideas; provide differentiated and high-quality access to senior management and industry experts; and executing its program with “a laser focus on seamless logistics,” according to Clein.
“But at the end of the day, it’s our customers who answer that question best,” he added. “What we can say is that every day we try to set our offering apart through a combination of innovation, creativity, traditional hard work and world-class execution.”
It seems customers have reacted: Morgan Stanley is once again No. 1 in Institutional Investor’s 2022 ranking of the best business access providers in Asia. The company defended its title after reclaiming the crown last year in a competitive field. This year, JP Morgan improved one position to take second place, followed by UBS in third. Citi maintained its fourth spot, while Credit Suisse moved up a spot to complete the top five.
In the 2022 Asia Research Team II survey – which Morgan Stanley also topped – more than 717 investors in 422 companies representing the buyer’s perspective rated sell-side companies on six attributes: quality of the team, field trips, conferences, roadshows, logistics and virtual events.
The survey also captured the business perspective, with 227 votes for sellers and third-party providers, which are beginning to compete with brokers. Voters ranked their top four companies based on the following attributes: virtual conferences, commentary, investor pitches or one-time requests, no-deal roadshows, and site visits. Morgan Stanley also ranked first here, followed by UBS in second and Citi in third. CSLA and Credit Suisse ranked fourth and fifth respectively.
“Investors are overwhelmed with choices, so we need to be on top of [our] game when it comes to delivering differentiated and timely content,” said Lee of UBS. “The need to quickly find the best expert on a particular subject and gain access to C-Suite is here to stay, with or without Covid.”
At UBS, this means collaboration between wealth management, investment banking, research, trade events marketing and global markets to deliver timely and differentiated content, in addition to leveraging its local footprint in Singapore. , Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
In addition to organizing events around investment themes, UBS prides itself on listening to its clients, according to Lee. “For example, one of our customers came to us and suggested that it would be helpful to see and touch real beauty and cosmetic products from China,” she said. “We immediately took this idea and worked with China 360 Research to organize a ‘Touch & Feel’ beauty event, during which we delivered cosmetic samples to our clients’ offices and hosted a virtual meeting with a leading cosmetic expert. in China.
But even amid these innovative ways to bridge the gap between businesses and investors while travel restrictions still exist, what customers want hasn’t fundamentally changed all that much, according to Lee. “They want to get quick access to C-Suite, more [have] relevant content delivered through trusted technology,” she said. “Direct access is vital; field channel checks and reading body language cannot be replaced by the virtual format.
Where countries are reopening, UBS is planning physical visits and in-person conferences. “We will continue to host virtual events for the most restrictive countries, while closely monitoring any changes in travel policies,” she added.
Jonathan Jenkins, head of equity distribution for Asia-Pacific at Credit Suisse, confirmed that, where possible, there is a strong demand for in-person meetings. In May, the company hosted its large-scale ASEAN conference for the first time since the pandemic, with plans to roll out more in-person events to other geographies as the Covid pandemic subsides and subsequent travel restrictions ease.
“Investors want to learn more about independent industry experts to validate their understanding of the industry, and we’ve doubled our offering in this area over the past two years,” he said. “Experts with good industry experience often attract good audience engagement.”
Looking ahead, UBS’s Lee also thinks there will be more of a return to more business access events before the pandemic. “We anticipate a resumption of field visits and the resumption of large-scale in-person conferences, where investors and companies can appreciate all that technology cannot replace,” she said.