Consolidation in the banking sector has had a more profound effect on the US structured products market than any other: where last year there were around 10 major product providers, by the end of this year that number may be nearer five. The benefit for some has been a retention of or even increase in market share, but this is only in the context of reduced issuance volumes and continued uncertainty over the direction of financial markets, as well as high equity market volatility, low rates, and a nervous investor audience.In a year when the restructuring of Lehman Brothers' trades was a fundamental feature of the work carried out by most providers, there was still innovation evident in product creation, and in the distribution, technological and legal aspects of the business.
The adversity that has beset most providers means that this year's award winners deserve special recognition for achieving results in the face of the prevailing downturn. Tales abound of market participants adapting products, finding new niches and extricating clients from the sticky situations into which capricious markets have plunged them without warning. We took a close look at the entire sales service: providing liquidity, education and aftersales support is no longer just a theoretical question.
Winners were selected by the Structured Products editorial team using the same process and criteria as last year's awards, from considerable numbers of applicants in most categories. The emphasis is not necessarily on size, but on who has been pushing forward and driving market developments, even at a time when the instinct is to pull back. Poor markets prompted alterations to the categories rewarded this year: the Latin America awards were consolidated into a single house prize rather than structurer and distributor categories; and there is no Canada award this year as the domestic structured products market has simply suffered too heavily from the past year's conditions.
Client references and market opinion played a vital part in the decision-making process, so we would like to thank everyone who took the time to speak with us. Mostly, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to pitch to us, and encourage those that missed out this time round to look forward to next year's awards.
Richard Jory, Editor
Awards write-ups were compiled by Richard Jory, Sophia Morrell and Matt Cameron.