In talking with the leaders of the top teams in Global Guaranty's 1992 All-American Municipal Analysts Program, there was some confusion about the team tallies.
The top team is awarded to the firm with the greatest number of votes cast for their respective analysts.
It's important to remember that every vote in the program is cast for the first-team - there are no "second team" votes.
Not surprisingly, whenever municipal analysts gather and Global Guaranty is present, someone inevitably says something like, "uhm...can I speak to you about the All-American program? In private? I finished on the second team, I wondered how well I really did."
"First, it depends on the closeness of the race. While we have analysts that consistently place on the top tier, similarly, the program has analysts that regularly win second team honors - which means the second team analyst usually captured a significant number of first team votes."
Given a second team analysts critical mind, that answer rarely proves satisfactory. After a series of probing questions about the program, an analyst typically presses for more information.
That's when it is helpful to mention Standard & Poor's Corp.'s All-American Municipal Analysts have won the top team award three years in a row. That's quite an accomplishment and indicative of the breadth and depth of research necessary to gamer top team honors.
Yet, S&P's group of analysts have not won individual first team titles.
S&P's team is led by Hyman Grossman, who continues to provide Claire Cohen of Fitch Investors Service Inc. with tough competition every year. Claire Cohen does win the voting, but Grossman and Bill Oliver of Prudential Insurance are clearly the second team.
Consider the fact S&P's Grossman has issued credit opinions that landed him on the front page of the New York Times newspaper. That means the editor's of the daily newspaper have thought his research was important for every New York reader to know.
His research can roil markets and cause issuers to send legions of favor seeking financial officers to the offices of S&P at 25 Broadway. He's very good and he's a second team All-American Municipal Analysts.
David Hitchcock is another S&P analyst that consistently places on the second team of All-American Municipal Analysts.
Hitchcock plays a supporting role to Grossman in the G.O. area in the All-American Municipal Analysts program. If the program featured a single G.O. category and team honors were designated by category - S&P would win.
But, that's not the way the program works.
The bottom line is the second team All-American Municipal Analyst was considered by a large number of institutional investors to be No. 1 by many institutional investors. "It's probably worth a mention in the resume and at review time."
While S&P consistently has won the first team honors by a handy margin of victory, Fitch Investors Service Inc. has scaled the heights on the strength of its first-team individual titles.
Even the most cursory analysis of the program reveals Fitch is the only rating agency with analysts on the first team.
Overall, Fitch currently employs 81 analysts, which is considerably less than either S&P or Moody's Investors Service Inc. Fitch analysts boast an average of 13 years experience and each employee of Fitch has an ownership stake in the company.
These factors, combined with distinct attempt to make Fitch a full service rating agency after the 1989 acquisition, are reasons why Fitch executives believe the agency has produced three first-team All-American Municipal Analysts.
Additionally, the Fitch organization has provided innovations in the market place such volatility ratings and securities valuations.
Ruth Corson Maynard in the regional analysis sector and Andrea Bozzo in the transportation sector also provided Fitch's team with much needed support as they finished on the second-team.
Having a first-team analyst score a landslide victory, such as Gary Krellenstein's triumph in the IRB/PCB sector, raises the prospect of skewwing the results.
Lehman's fortunes soared from sixth place in the 1991 to third place in 1992 as Krellenstein captured more votes than any other analyst in the 1992 program.
In previous years, Alan Spen has scored similar landslide victories, along with Peter Fugiel of Nuveen and Thomas Kenny of Franklin Group of Funds.
While some analysts argue the ability of any individual to effect the overall team rankings should be limited in someway, no better alternative has been offered.
However, the test of the top teams is their ability to consistently remain in the top ten rankings over the years.
The recognition for buyside analysis continues to grow in the All-American Municipal Analsyts Program.
Given the 25% response rate to this year's balloting process and the limited number of ballots each institution received, an institutional investor couldn't push an analyst into the top rankings simply by voting for only the firm's own buyside analysts.
Clearly institutional investors voted for buyside analysts at rival institutions. Perhaps the investment officer stubbed their toes on credit concerns after trading with a particular institution. Or the investors may have participated in the purchase of municipal bonds the rival institutional investor's analyst has reviewed and was impressed by the results.
Another reason for voting for a buyside analyst would be listening to a speach delivered at a seminar or conference. In any event, the trend toward recognizing buyside analysis is worth examining.