The Banker's Investment Banking Awards 2020 - Awards -

Banks that have shown tenacity and determination to keep going and drive through deals amid the most challenging of circumstances have come out on top in The Banker’s Investment Banking Awards this year.

Once again, investment banks from around the world — regional players through to global giants — are vying to be crowned market leaders across the sector’s key product areas.

This year, in recognition of the increasing importance of sustainability within investment banking, we have introduced new categories celebrating the institutions that have put sustainability at the heart of what they do, promoting an approach which pays close attention to environmental, social and governance considerations. 

Winners 

The awards also recognise the banks that have delivered excellence for their clients across 19 different product areas. For the first time, in 2020, investment banks that have pushed the boundaries of technological innovation will also be rewarded for their efforts.

There are 28 categories in total in 2020, including the coveted title of Investment Bank of the Year. 

This year is certainly ending in a very different way to how it began. It is abundantly clear by now just how much the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown business as usual out of the window. In 2020, more than ever, investment banks have played a critical role in keeping the wheels on the global economy spinning, supporting corporates to access much-needed liquidity and leading the financial response by underwriting record volumes of social bond issuance. Given the often volatile market conditions and large-scale home working, as well as many other disruptions, technological innovations that support increased efficiency and decrease reliance on manual processes have never been so important. The calibre of entries for our most innovative trading system and best technological innovation in investment banking is testament to the ingenuity and talent of those working to transform the systems and processes behind the capital markets. 

Although the pressing challenges posed by climate change and other environmental issues may have been slightly overshadowed this year, it rightly continues to be a growing area of focus for investment banks. Our sustainability categories were some of the most hotly contested in the awards, with banks from across the spectrum keen to showcase their work and contribution to the growing sustainable finance industry. 

There are several stand-out stories among this year’s winners. Mashreq fended off competition from several much larger players to scoop the syndicated loans prize. The UAE-based bank punches well above its weight in its region and has its sights set on making an international impact. 

BNP Paribas scooped the award for initial public offerings (IPOs), in recognition of the growing momentum behind its activity within equity capital markets, with it winning several major IPO mandates during the review period. 

In these uncertain times, it is the banks that most effectively responded to client needs, showing a tenacity and determination to keep going and drive through deals even within the most challenging of circumstances, which came out on top.

Investment Bank of the Year

Winner: Credit Suisse

This year’s winner of the ‘Investment Bank of the Year’ title has impressed across the board. Not only did Credit Suisse excel in its winning categories of equity derivatives and securitisation, but across numerous other categories, including initial public offerings (IPOs), syndicated loans and technological innovation, where it would also have been a worthy winner. 

Brian Chin, CEO of the investment bank at Credit Suisse, says: “In a year that has seen unprecedented market volatility, coupled with challenges to standard operating environments, Credit Suisse has proven the resilience and credibility of its business model — one that is versatile and always ready to serve its clients. We delivered outperformance in the first half of 2020, continuing to trade record volumes, gain market share and maintain connectivity to clients.”

 Across equity capital markets, structured product categories, loans and more, Credit Suisse has demonstrated its ability to provide an excellent service for its clients, and be a powerhouse for issuance and getting deals done in highly challenging market circumstances. Whether through the creation of new investment strategies in equity derivatives, its ability to handle non-conventional securitisation deals or, within IPOs, its leadership in the fast-developing market for special purpose acquisition companies, its commitment to innovation in everything it does is clear. 

Mr Chin adds: “Credit Suisse’s investment bank is continuously evolving in line with changing client and market dynamics, and focused on maintaining leadership positions in our strategic businesses. Through increased collaboration we seek to enhance thought leadership, broaden client service efforts and ultimately grow revenue opportunities. The investment bank integration, expansion of our environmental, social and governance (ESG) capabilities, and our focus on advancing technology and data offerings will be at the forefront of our plans going forward to optimise the business.”

Technologically it has also pushed the bounds, creating powerful systems that have supercharged its capabilities, such as its ground-breaking contact management and customer relationship management system. The solution, known as the ‘Inferred Model’, runs passively in the background of Credit Suisse’s network to capture banker-client interaction data and contact info, and promote the right outreach at the right time from the banker with the strongest client relationship, while also complying with all relevant data protection regulations. 

The system, introduced in autumn 2019, has already had a major impact, unlocking relationship insights that previously remained with individual teams or bankers, delivering a fully governed database of client contacts, and providing bankers with expanded capabilities to collaborate with one another to win deals. 

It has also been making its mark on sustainability through its impact advisory and finance department. The department, which has a highly influential role within the bank, acts as an ‘umbrella’, providing overarching expertise, driving product development and directing sustainable finance efforts across Credit Suisse globally. It continues to advocate for the growth of impact investing, where positive social impact is placed on a par with achieving financial returns, and acts as a thought leader on the development of standards and sustainability frameworks. 

At the heart of Credit Suisse’s approach to ESG is that, while sustainable finance is a crucial growth area, expanding activity should not be at the expense of diligence, standards and transparency. A prime example of this approach is its project with the Climate Bonds Initiative to develop a new framework for so-called ‘transition bonds’. The framework provides a roadmap for leveraging the global capital markets to accelerate the corporate transition to a sustainable and low-carbon economy, from ‘brown to green’. If the right approach for transition bonds can be found, they have the potential to make a powerful impact, uniting the ambitions of investors looking for greater sustainable opportunities with those of corporate issuers seeking to transition, but that are currently shut out of green bond markets. 

In short, Credit Suisse ticks all the boxes of what a modern investment bank should be focused on. 

David Miller, head of capital markets and advisory at Credit Suisse, says: “Our long-term, committed, and innovative approach is what differentiates Credit Suisse, and our success is seen across different product areas and client types. We have reopened capital markets and shored up liquidity for our diverse client set.”

Investment Bank of the Year for Bonds

Winner: Citi

Since bouncing back from a period of market turmoil in early March, it has been a boom time for bond markets. An impressive $1.2tn was raised in the first six months of 2020 in US investment grade issuance alone — more than in the whole of 2019, according to market data firm Refinitiv.

As corporates have been on the hunt for cash to provide much-needed liquidity, bolster their coffers or take advantage of market conditions to opportunistically raise finance, Citi has been there to help them to market, assisting clients from across the investment grade and high-yield spectrum. It is clear the bank played a key role in reopening the bond markets following March’s disruption — including bringing the first two deals to market from European corporates in this period — and continued to support a wide range of clients to successfully issue debt across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific.

Richard Zogheb, head of global debt capital markets at Citi, says: “Citi entered 2020 with a strong capital position and was therefore able to provide liquidity to clients in all geographies and rating categories when Covid-19 impacted the global economy. We re-opened the investment grade market with offerings from Exxon Mobil, PepsiCo and Verizon, and the high-yield market with offerings from Yum Brands and Ardagh Packaging, and the corporate emerging markets market with an offering from Equate Petrochemical. We worked to bring these companies to the bond capital markets as soon as practicable, but at the same time ensuring that their offerings would be successful.”

Just a couple of key transactions Citi has been involved in include Boeing’s jumbo $25bn, seven-tranche issuance in April, the largest debt issuance to date in 2020, where Citi was a left lead bookrunner and adviser; and energy company PG&E’s $8.9bn six-tranche bankruptcy emergence package.  

The bank has also played a major role in supporting a range of issuers to print bonds with green, social and sustainability objectives, including bonds from the African Development Bank, Bank of China and Kookmin Bank, which will fund programmes to tackle the economic effects of Covid-19. 

Citi also had a strong start to the award period: prior to the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, it led on several significant transactions, including Occidental Petroleum’s $13bn offering to raise finance for its acquisition of Anadarko and Otis Worldwide’s $5.3bn issuance to finance its spin-off from United Technologies. 

Investment Bank of the Year for Green/Climate Action Bonds 

Winner: HSBC

Despite being somewhat outshone by the significant growth in social bond issuance in recent months, green bonds still account for the lion’s share of sustainability-related bond issuance, with $92.5bn worth of green bonds issued in the first half of 2020, according to Dealogic.

Concerns about environmental and climate-related issues are only continuing to grow, and HSBC has been able to play a key role in supporting issuance that will fund green causes. The bank acted as a bookrunner for 78 different green bond issuances worth $10.1bn between July 2019 and July 2020 — the highest number of deals for any bank in this period. 

At a critical moment in the transition to a greener and more sustainable global economy, HSBC assisted 30 new issuers in entering the green bond markets during the award period, while also participating in innovative new structures such as green covered bonds and green hybrid bonds. One such new issuer that HSBC brought to market was FCC Medio Ambiente, one of the world’s largest environmental services providers and a major player in waste management. Despite accounting for nearly 3% of Europe’s greenhouse gases emissions, the sector was almost absent from the green bond markets. Its pioneering issuance in November 2019 financed greener waste management and cleaner waste transportation projects, and has laid the ground for other waste management firms to enter this market. 

Farnam Bidgoli, director and head of sustainable bonds for Europe, the Middle East and Asia at HSBC, says: “Green and sustainable bonds are central to HSBC’s aim to lead the transition to a net-zero economy. The bank reacted quickly with Covid-19 response bonds and continued to use our global team to provide clients with innovative solutions — including the first plastic waste reduction bond. We look forward to more opportunities moving forward, especially in sectors transitioning their businesses and economies in a more sustainable way.”

A truly international player in this space, the bank supported green bond issuers in 33 different countries and led green offerings in 11 different currencies. This includes being active within the green sukuk market, for instance, leading on the Islamic Development Bank’s debut sustainability sukuk issuance.

Investment Bank of the Year for Social Bonds

Winner: BNP Paribas

Social bonds have long been overshadowed by their green cousins, but the Covid-19 pandemic has been a powerful catalyst in increasing their issuance levels. There was a 351% increase in the volume of social bonds printed in the first half of 2020, compared with the same period last year.

BNP Paribas has made a significant impact in supporting issuance aimed at addressing the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. As of the beginning of July, it had been involved in more than $59bn worth of Covid-19-related bonds in Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific for various multilateral development banks, agencies and sovereigns. This included being a joint lead manager on one of the first Covid-19-related issuances to reach the market at the end of March: the Nordic Investment Bank’s (NIB’s) €1bn ($1.18bn) three-year bond, which will fund loans for sustainable businesses in member countries which have been hit by the pandemic. The bond saw NIB achieve its largest ever order book.

BNP Paribas also had an established pedigree in the social bond market prior to the emergence of Covid-19. For instance, in January 2020 it acted as a bookrunner for Shriram Transport Finance Company’s debut social bond issuance. It was the first social bond from the Indian non-banking financial company sector and only the second out of India at all. It also acted as a bookrunner for Korea Housing Finance Corporation’s Ä1bn social covered bonds issuance, which was the first-ever negatively yielding euro social covered bond to be printed in Asia.

Agnès Gourc, co-head of sustainable finance markets at BNP Paribas, says: “Social bonds are a vital tool for mobilising finance in support of multiple UN sustainable development goals. At BNP Paribas, we have been encouraged to see the market grow this year, and particularly proud to assist issuers in raising financing for immediate relief efforts in the face of Covid-19. We are committed to supporting issuers and investors to access the social bond market, while maintaining its integrity, and hope to see it further deepen, in particular opening up to corporate issuers.” 

Investment Bank of the Year for Emerging Markets in Africa

Winner: Standard Bank

With a footprint across 20 African nations, Standard Bank has played a pivotal role in helping the continent’s corporates, government entities and multinationals active in the region to raise the finance they need. For instance, in Nigeria — Africa’s largest economy — it has supported a range of corporates, such as Dangote Cement, tech firm Interswitch and leading gas company Axxela to issue bonds between July 2019 and July 2020. 

Anne Aliker, the bank’s head of investment banking for the Africa region, says: “Standard Bank believes in finding the right deals for our clients and for Africa, facilitated by our fit-for-purpose points of reference in developed and developing pools of capital. We are delighted to have received this acknowledgement which recognises our understanding of Africa’s complex banking landscape. This award reiterates our extensive market knowledge and strong client relationships which ensure that we can be agile, efficient, reliable and respectful in supporting our clients’ growth strategies.”

Investment in infrastructure has continued to be an important theme, with Standard Bank supporting the financing of many significant projects that will have a major long-term impact on economic growth in the region. This includes finalising $140m of long-term project financing and capital funding for the developing the Port of Maputo, Mozambique, via two financings. These transactions are particularly significant in the context of both the size of the Mozambican economy, and the importance of the port as a major trade gateway for the country and the region. The financings also highlight Standard Bank’s long-term commitment to serving its clients; its track record of involvement with the port stretches back to 2003, when it acted as initial lender under the port’s concessioning. 

Another long-term partner that has benefitted from the bank’s assistance this year is Umeme, Uganda’s main electricity distribution company, responsible for 97% of electricity in the country. Umeme is regarded as one of Africa’s most successful private concessions and Standard Bank has played an ongoing role in its lifecycle since its 20-year concession began in 2005. 

During the award period, Standard Bank’s Ugandan subsidiary, Stanbic Bank Uganda, arranged $201.5m of debt financing — $70m new term debt funding and a refinancing of $131.5m existing debt — marking the last of Umeme’s externally-financed capital expenditure obligations until the expiry of the concession agreement, a major milestone for the company.

Investment Bank of the Year for Emerging Markets in Europe

Winner: Renaissance Capital

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, tough market conditions had continued to prevail in central and eastern Europe (CEE) but this has not stopped Renaissance Capital from assisting high-quality issuers to access the capital markets, including several impressive debuts. 

Renaissance Capital holds a rare position in the market as a solely emerging and frontier markets-focused investment bank. This has allowed it to develop a strong reputation and a growing track record of success — particularly within CEE and Russia. Its impact outside of Europe also continues to grow, particularly within African markets, but also in the Middle East and South America. The highly rated research capability it offers also provides clients with in-depth insights on market movements, trends and the best strategies. 

It has continued to demonstrate its proficiency within the Eurobond markets, leading on several landmark transactions. This includes a debut $300m issuance from Russian private bank Sovcombank and Armenian bank Ardshinbank’s first Eurobond since 2015, achieving the lowest ever coupon from an Armenian non-sovereign issuer. It also executed a number of high-profile equity capital market (ECM) deals, such as a follow-on offering from Halyk bank, Kazakhstan’s largest bank, and the privatisation secondary public offering for Kazatomprom, the world’s largest producer of natural uranium. It has been a leading player within ECM markets in CEE and the Commonwealth of Independent States for more than a decade. Its expertise also extends into mergers and acquisitions transactions, where in Russia in particular it has been able to make a real name for itself.

Investment Bank of the Year for Emerging Markets in Asia-Pacific

Winner: DBS

Singaporean multinational bank, DBS, plays a key role in debt financing in the Asia-Pacific region, remaining the leading bookrunner in Singaporean dollar bond markets and consistently outperforming larger peers. It has also developed a strong position in Asian bond markets more broadly — during the review period it ranked sixth for Asian corporate bonds (ex-Japan), according to financial markets platform Dealogic — paving the way for regional banks to play a more dominant role in Asian markets. 

In particular, DBS has been a leading facilitator of Singaporean and Asian perpetual issuances. For instance, it acted as a bookrunner for real estate developer CapitaLand Treasury’s SGD500m ($368.31m) perpetual securities and ARA Asset Management’s SGD350m perpetual securities, as well as several other Singaporean deals and issuances for prominent Chinese issuers, such as for China Resources Land’s $1.05bn perpetual securities. 

As well as a strong performance in the financial institution groups space, where it assisted issuers such as UBS, Credit Suisse and PT Bank Mandiri access SGD and US dollar bond markets during the review period. In the case of the PT Mandiri transaction, which took place in May, this was the first public US dollar bond issue from a bank in south-east Asia since the intensification of the Covid-19 outbreak in March, demonstrating its ability to execute successfully despite challenging circumstances. 

DBS has also focused its attention on adding additional value to the services it can deliver its clients. This includes its credit rating advisory service, as well as advisory services around environmental, social and governance ratings and frameworks — invaluable at a time of continued growth for sustainable finance bonds in Asian markets.

Eng-Kwok Seat Moey, group head of capital markets at DBS, says: “DBS continues to consistently demonstrate a deep-seated knowledge of global capital markets by leading landmark debt and equity issues across multiple sectors and geographies. Our commitment to stand by our clients through the peaks and troughs of economic cycles shone through during the pandemic months. Our bankers swiftly executed on several notable transactions to optimise our clients’ funding structures, akin to business-as-usual despite lockdown restrictions in the region and work-from-home orders in place. Amid the headwinds, sustainability remains core to our agenda as well, and we look forward to supporting more corporates to tap capital markets.”

Investment Bank of the Year for Emerging Markets in the Middle East

Winner: First Abu Dhabi Bank

First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) is a major player within the Middle East, and has been at the vanguard of the region’s increasing relevance within emerging markets in recent years. The bank has supported prominent transactions from Middle East issuers and facilitated the spread of valuable liquidity into international markets from the region’s investors. For instance, FAB topped the league tables for Middle East and North Africa loans and is a leading regional bank for debt capital markets activity. 

The bank continues to strive for growth and improvement, and has revamped its debt capital markets platform to streamline the origination and execution process, allowing FAB to consolidate its leading position in this area. It has also created dedicated environmental, social and governance champions within the business to act as a single point of contact to support the growing interest in sustainability-related issuance within the region. 

In a year when several strategically prominent initial public offering (IPO) and merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions took place in the Middle East, FAB has taken a key role. For instance, it was a bookrunner for Saudi Aramco’s record-breaking IPO in December 2019. On the advisory side, it acted as one of a small group of advisers for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s $10.1bn sale of a 49% stake in select gas pipeline assets and liquid natural gas flows. It was also one of two book runners on the $7.96bn acquisition financing, raised to fund the sale, demonstrating its capabilities in a complex structured transaction. 

Building on its reputation locally, the bank has also begun developing its international footprint, winning mandates in locations such as China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam in the past year. It is also beginning to establish a strong presence in the Indian market and is moving up the league tables for Indian foreign currency loans. 

Andy Cairns, senior managing director and head of global corporate finance at FAB, says: “We are proud and appreciative to win this coveted award. The past year has seen FAB lead many marquee transactions spanning loans, capital markets and M&A. Common across all deals has been thoughtful structuring and attention to detail in execution, as we strive to deliver best outcomes for our clients. This applies equally, be it the world’s largest IPO for Saudi Aramco, a jumbo bond for the Omani government or a smaller-sized bespoke financing for a mid-market name.”

Investment Bank of the Year for Emerging Markets in South America

Winner: BTG Pactual

BTG Pactual is a clear market leader in Latin America, consistently topping the league tables with its involvement in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and equity capital market deals. Its model of placing full-service investment banking and brokerage teams locally in its key markets has formed a strong foundation for success. 

When judging it for this year’s award, we homed in on its achievements in Colombia, with a submission prepared by BTG Pactual Colombia. Although its home market — Brazil — remains a powerhouse, the investment banking team in Colombia has achieved some substantial successes in the past year, including its highest-ever revenues while managing several transformational deals within the Colombian markets. 

This includes being joint lead arranger of a $185m credit facility for a Sacyr Concesiones Colombia-backed special purpose vehicle, to complete the construction of the Puerta de Hierro toll road, a significant piece of infrastructure that will provide a major boost to the Colombian economy. BTG Pactual also acted as exclusive financial advisor in five Colombian M&A transactions worth $660m, such as the sale of leading gynaecology firm Clinica de la Mujer and medical diagnostics firm CediMed to Spanish healthcare firm Quironsalud. It was also able to leverage its presence across both Brazil and Colombia to advise Ecopetrol on its acquisition of a 30% stake of Shell’s Gato do Moto project, in the Santos Basin. 

One of its most impactful successes during the review period was advising the Colombian government on the divestment of Electricaribe, an electric distribution firm covering regions on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The firm had been nationalised by the Colombian government after falling into financial difficulty and its divestment was an important fiscal step forward.

Investment Bank of the Year for Equity Derivatives

Winner: Credit Suisse

Despite a year of challenging market conditions, Credit Suisse’s equity derivatives team achieved significant growth in revenue and market share. Last year saw its best full-year performance since 2015, and the first quarter of 2020 was the best single quarter in 10 years, with client revenues more than doubling with growth across all three sales channels (institutional, private banking and corporates). 

Mike Ebert, head of equity derivatives at Credit Suisse, says: “This achievement is a result of the outstanding work across our entire equity derivatives team and is testament to the commitment every team member has shown over this challenging period. We have delivered significant growth in revenues and market share, and, most importantly, continued to stay close to our clients by generating innovative and relevant ideas for them, resulting in our successfully closing a number of notable transactions.”

Given the head-spinning level of innovation that has been taking place, such results have not entirely come out of the blue. Impactful new initiatives have included the launch of environmental, social and governance-investable products incorporating Credit Suisse’s own sustainable investment framework, a unique systematic dispersion index and the launch of a new High Watermark Protection certificate in the long-term savings space. The bank has also been seeking to become a strategic hedging partner to insurance companies globally for their structured policies via a combination of product wrapping and investment content expertise. And for key institutional clients there has been a focus on delivering tailored systematic mandates, helping them achieve defined outcomes across a variety of investment themes.

Layer on Credit Suisse’s impressive technology platform for its equity derivatives clients and it makes for a highly compelling proposition. Clients can now access self-service channels via a platform based on the same infrastructure used inside the bank. The Sphere platform provides clients with transparency, flexibility and scale, with the full breadth of product customisation and access to the same internal quantitative models as Credit Suisse’s own relationship managers via a simple-to-use interface. 

The bank has also used the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to continue innovating and improving, with the March’s market dislocation highlighting the importance of astute risk management, particularly in structured derivatives. The equity derivatives team has been increasingly active in this space, leading to the development of a diverse set of ‘Alternative Risk Transfer’ opportunities.

Investment Bank of the Year for Equity-linked Products

Winner: Natixis

We often speak of innovation in these pages, but rarely does a bank create something as genuinely unique as Natixis’s equity-linked structured product, with its positive environmental and social benefits. Such an approach is typical from Natixis, which has often been a pioneer in banking products with positive environmental, social and governance (ESG) benefits that simultaneously meet client objectives.  

The ‘Development des Territoires’ product combines a social bond dedicated to local economic development within France — the bank’s home country — and a climate index. All of the proceeds from the social bond will finance local small businesses in economically and socially disadvantaged areas of metropolitan France, particularly those hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis, which is apt considering the product takes its name from the aim of reducing territorial inequalities. The climate index —  Euronext Climate Objective Euro Decrement 5% — a strong performer among ESG indices, is focused on companies
that address climate issues via their products and services or by reducing their carbon footprints. 

The product has been offered in partnership with insurer Groupama, with Natixis acting as issuer and the structured notes distributed by Groupama via Groupe Gan Vie life insurance policies.

Orith Azoulay, global head of green and sustainable finance at Natixis, says: “We are honoured to receive The Banker’s equity-linked product award 2020 — a great recognition of our innovation efforts in green and social investment solutions. The Développement des Territoires product is a 100% sustainable equity-linked product composed of a social bond dedicated local economic development and a climate index. This programme is particularly relevant in this Covid-19 context as the pandemic exacerbated inequalities and poverty, and climate [is] positioned at the heart of European recovery packages’ priorities.”

While it has become increasingly common for equity-linked products to be linked to green or climate objectives, Natixis felt there was a gap in the market for products with a social focus. 

The level of transparency around the product is one of its key distinguishing features. It is supported by an interactive platform which allows users to examine the use of proceeds at a regional level and impact reporting is done on an annual basis. 

Investment Bank of the Year for Equity-raising

Winner: UBS

In what has been a period of considerable economic turbulence, speed has been of the essence in ensuring corporates could raise capital quickly and effectively. Despite the broad market shocks, UBS has been able to assist numerous corporates to access the equity markets and achieve good outcomes in difficult circumstances.

Gareth McCartney, European head of equity capital markets and global head of equity capital markets syndicate at UBS Investment Bank, says: “Unprecedented market conditions over the past nine months have created the need for innovative and dynamic solutions to solve our clients’ problems and meet their needs. Our team has remained nimble and innovative in our approach to designing, and, most importantly, executing equity capital markets solutions.”

UBS had a strong record in the accelerated bookbuild (ABB) market even before the Covid-19 pandemic, and has been a market leader for Europe, the Middle East and Africa ABBs since 2015, according to Dealogic data. It has been able to drive success in ABBs for numerous corporates, including in the £430m ($557m) ABB of Just Eat Takeaway.com in February 2020, where books were covered within just 10 minutes of the deal announcement, and closed after 90 minutes of bookbuilding. Robust demand enabled the transaction to be upsized from £300m to £430m. 

ABBs, in particular, have proven to be a popular option for corporates to execute quickly at a time of volatility, particularly at the end of the first quarter of 2020 and beginning of the second quarter. A clear example of UBS’s leadership in this market is its role as joint global coordinator and joint global bookrunner on the Ä800m ($947.4m) accelerated placing of telecoms infrastructure firm Inwit, becoming the largest equity capital market transaction in Italy at the year to date, and one of the first sizable ABB transactions after Covid-19 disruption began to bite.

Convertible markets have also been aflame, with corporates and investors alike attracted by the additional flexibility the structure offers in a period of uncertainty. Issuers have often chosen to combine a convertible bond issuance with conventional capital raises too. This can be seen clearly in international duty-free retailer Dufry’s CHF350m ($385.67m) convertible bond issuance and concurrent CHF151m placement via an ABB, where UBS acted joint global coordinator and left lead bookrunner. This transaction had a considerable positive impact on the company’s financial position, helping to remediate the impact of the crisis on the travel industry.

Investment Bank of the Year for Islamic Finance

Winner: HSBC

The Islamic finance sector continues to grow apace, with increasing interest in sukuk markets from the international investor community encouraging more and new issuers to market. 

HSBC continues to be a clear leader in this space, supporting issuers in a range of locations across Asia and the Middle East to come to market, and leading in the development of innovative Islamic financing solutions, tailored to client objectives. 

As in the conventional bond markets, there is also considerable innovation taking place, with green and sustainable sukuks becoming an increasingly important area of Islamic finance. During the review period, HSBC’s credentials in this area really shone, as the only bank to act as a structuring agent on all green and sustainability sukuk frameworks and sukuk issuances which came to market. 

This included acting as sole structuring agent for the world’s first euro green sukuk, issued by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB). Following on from the success of this sukuk, HSBC led the first ever sustainability sukuk in the global capital markets — also for the IsDB — with proceeds earmarked for the alleviation of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mohammed Dawood, managing director and head of Islamic finance at HSBC Amanah, says: “HSBC is proud to drive innovation and thought leadership in Islamic finance, building on our deep understanding of this market, our unique global footprint and strong customer connectivity. We’ve led the sustainable Islamic finance agenda by acting as the sole structuring agent for the first ever green sukuk for the [IsDB] and deepened the sukuk market by arranging the first ever corporate hybrid sukuk for DP World. Our strategy will continue to deepen the product offering in this market, and broaden the issuer and investor base.”

The award period also saw HSBC open up the Islamic high yield market in Asia, and the bank played an integral role in the success of two high yield sukuk issuances. HSBC was global coordinator on Malaysian engineering services firm, Serba Dinamik’s $200m high yield sukuk — the first out of this asset class to include a call option. 

HSBC also helped its clients to navigate a changing regulatory environment in 2020. This included advising on a new type of syndication structure to ensure its client, National Commercial Bank, met new sharia standards introduced in the UAE, as well as leading on the first ever international Tier 2 issuance in sukuk format, which was brought to market by Riyad Bank. 

Investment Bank of the Year for IPOs

Winner: BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas has been very public in its ambitions to take on global competitors in markets such as equity capital markets. While market conditions for initial public offerings (IPOs) have been challenging in some respects, both before and after the outbreak of Covid-19, BNP Paribas has still been able to make a noticeable impact. 

The bank has sought to leverage its leading capabilities and expertise in equity research and sales via Exane BNP Paribas, its top-rated rated equity brokerage arm, to deliver high-quality and deep distribution. Rather than viewing the euro-centric nature of its equity house business as a limitation, it is has also sought to be make its expertise here a key strength in attracting major global clients seeking to list in euros.  

Andreas Bernstorff, head of equity capital markets for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), says: “This award recognises our hard work in establishing [BNP Paribas] as a top-tier IPO house. With an equity research/sales franchise ranked number one by investors (Institutional Investor/Extel survey) over the past four years, our ability to be a leading financing partner to companies is a compelling proposal to any IPO candidate. We look forward to supporting many more in the future.” 

A recent, and significant, success for BNP Paribas was it being a joint global coordinator for coffee manufacturer JDE Peet’s €2.6bn ($3.08bn) Amsterdam IPO in May, alongside two US banks. The transaction was Europe’s largest IPO since 2018. Interestingly, 40% of the demand generated out of the JDE Peet’s IPO came from US-based investors, and demonstrates BNP Paribas’s ability to distribute with US-based institutions. BNP Paribas has led on the three largest IPOs in EMEA and was ranked third in EMEA IPO league tables during the review period. 

It has also achieved notable mandates for listings further afield during the review period, such as acting as joint bookrunner for Budweiser APAC’s jumbo €5.2bn Hong Kong IPO in September 2019 and as joint bookrunner for the $150m New York IPO of Montrose Environmental Services in July 2020.

It is clear to see the momentum that has been building in BNP Paribas’s IPO franchise in recent years, particularly in the last 12 months. 

Investment Bank of the Year for Mergers and Acquisitions

Winner: Rothschild & Co

During what has been a challenging period for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity, Rothschild & Co has continued to make a big impact, particularly for an independent investment bank. In the review period, the 283 M&A deals it advised on was second only to Goldman Sachs. 

In particular, Rothschild & Co has continued to perform strongly in Europe, its most established market, advising on four of the 20 largest M&A transactions in the region during the review period, and counting both major companies and governments within the region as its clients. 

However, it has also had a successful year globally, advising on deals in 52 different countries, with 54% of such deals being cross-border transactions, demonstrating the strength of its global network and its ability to manage complex cultural and regulatory situations. As well as playing a leading role in the burgeoning private equity M&A space, advising on $51bn in publicly disclosed private equity M&A, and on deals involving more than 115 private equity houses, during the awards period.

The bank attributes its success, in part, to the fact that it aims to cultivate long-term and trusted relationship with its clients. For example, the 12-month period saw its 20th assignment for Accor in 25 years, its eighth for Asahi since 2009, and 14th for Volkswagen in 11 years. It aims to continue developing the service it offers, including via the combined investor advisory business it launched in the second quarter 2019, following its previous acquisitions of Scott Harris and Investor Perceptions. This will offer clients financing advice, assist them in competing for capital as effectively as possible, and advise on shareholder and board engagement issues. 

Philippe Le Bourgeois, chief operating officer of global advisory at Rothschild & Co, says: “The unrivalled volume of transactions we work on provides us with the scale, reach and market knowledge to see opportunities and deliver effective solutions for our clients, worldwide and across borders. 

“Building and maintaining long-term relationships with our clients has always been at the heart of our business model and, in times of challenge, our first priority is to focus on our clients’ needs through regular dialogue with them.”

Investment Bank of the Year for Private Placements

Winner: Moelis

The volume of transactions being done via private capital markets continues to grow, with many banks dedicating increasing resources to this area. However, independent investment bank Moelis, with a 19-strong team of private placement bankers with on average 15 years’ experience to their names, can more than hold its own. Between July 2019 and July 2020, it has advised on $28bn worth of private placements, with $13bn raised since April 2020. It impresses with its highly professional approach, providing tailored client solutions with spot-on execution. 

Moelis’s flexible business model, where bankers have the latitude to create a range of solutions for clients, has allowed it to react quickly in recent challenging circumstances. This was particularly clear in the case of Expedia, which had complex and pressing capital needs in light of the severe drop in demand prompted by travel restrictions and lockdowns in many parts of the world. Not only did it need to raise additional capital, it also needed to amend existing credit facilities to avoid breaching its total leverage covenant. Moelis was able to create a tailored, multi-discipline solution for Expedia, which allowed it to raise capital on attractive terms and adjust its capital structure. 

Similarly, New Residential Investment Corp, a real estate investment trust (REIT), was facing severe financial strain in March and April this year, due to declines in mortgage servicing rights and non-agency loan values, as well as a decline in cash flow, as many mortgage borrowers took part in forbearance programmes. Moelis arranged a $600m capital raise for New Residential Investment Corp following outreach to a range of sophisticated private investors, which boosted the company’s balance sheet at a moment of acute liquidity pressure. The transaction became a model for the mortgage REIT industry as it was replicated by other mortgage REITS in the months that followed.

Navid Mahmoodzadegan, co-president of Moelis, says: “In the past six months, our clients have faced an unprecedented need for liquidity and high-quality advice as Covid-19 disrupted business operations. We are pleased The Banker has recognised our ability to deliver a virtual balance sheet for clients, across both debt and equity private placements, in one of the most challenging economic environments. We have recently doubled the size of our capital markets team and are incredibly excited about our expanded capabilities and continuing to build on our tremendous momentum.”

Investment Bank of the Year for Restructuring

Winner: Lazard

Lazard has made its name advising on some of the most prominent, and often complex, restructuring transactions in the market, across a range of sectors, but with a particular strength in retail and energy. The review period for this year’s awards was no different, with the bank taking on numerous large and challenging transactions. 

Its recent portfolio includes advising Pacific Gas and Electric Company in what has been the largest restructuring of 2020 to date, and one of the most complex Chapter 11 bankruptcies in US history. This included leading one of the largest-ever exit financing packages in the midst of the Covid-19 market dislocation. This is in addition to its work for Macy’s, where it designed and executed a comprehensive financing strategy, employing bespoke and novel financing structures to raise $4.5bn in financing, providing liquidity in highly uncertain market conditions.

Lazard has also continued to build on its reputation for taking an innovative and creative approach to liability management transactions, growing its practice throughout 2019 and 2020. For US homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises, it advised on a three-phase liability management exercise which included unique exchanges worth a total $1.2bn. This simplified the company’s capital structure, reduced its debt costs and ultimately provided it with a solid financial footing for the future.

It is not only with corporates where Lazard has been able to capture the market, with the bank engaging with multiple governments and public entities throughout the award period in relation to complex and ongoing sovereign debt situations, such as in Argentina, Ecuador, Lebanon and Zambia.

Lazard attributes its success to having a cross-functional team approach, which allows the bank to take a considered and holistic approach throughout the restructuring cycle. In the context of Covid-19, this has meant proactively engaging with clients on balance sheet and liquidity issues.

Investment Bank of the Year for Securitisation

Winner: Credit Suisse

For the fifth year running, Credit Suisse has been recognised for its achievements in securitisation — testament to the bank’s ongoing success and dedication to achieving results for its clients. 

Despite being a well-seasoned operator that continues to top the league tables, it has not rested on its laurels; pushing the boundaries in many sectors, assisting a range of experienced and new issuers to market through tailor-made solutions, in the US as well as in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

During the review period, it was a leading player in areas such as mortgages, consumer, commercial and transportation sectors, and brought nine new issuers to market, including Liberty Lending, DLL/Mahindra and Funding Circle.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, securitisation markets, like others, ground to a halt and Credit Suisse played a key role in bringing them back to life — for instance, in residential mortgage-backed securitisation (RMBS) markets with Cascade Funding Mortgage Trust’s $373m reverse mortgage deal in April; and in auto asset-backed securities (ABS) markets with a $116m subprime auto lease transaction from American Car Center, also issued in April. 

More recently, in July, it priced the first credit card ABS deal since February, with Genesis Private Label Amortizing Trust’s $137.6m transaction. In RMBS markets in particular, it quickly capitalised on a build in momentum following earlier market disruption, pricing 22 transactions worth $6.7bn between early May and the end of June. 

Jay Kim, global head of securitised products at Credit Suisse, says: “The strength and depth of our structuring capabilities, distribution network and client relationships were more evident during these past few months than ever before. In addition to being on top of the league tables and also introducing the most inaugural issuers, what makes Credit Suisse stand out even more during this awards period was our ability to reopen the markets during Covid-19 with challenging and unique transactions across the RMBS and consumer ABS sectors... all while still working from home.”

Outside of the US, the review period also saw it lead on the world’s first ever RMBS transaction 100% backed by mortgage loans to non-resident borrowers, from Australian lender Columbus Capital, as well as leading on the refinancing of one of the UK’s largest non-conforming mortgage portfolios for Hawksmoor mortgage funding. 

Investment Bank of the Year for Sustainability-linked Loans

Winner: BNP Paribas

Innovation continues apace in the sustainability-linked loan (SLL) markets, with such loans providing an effective way for corporates to integrate sustainability targets into their financing strategy. These loans will typically be structured around key performance indicators (KPIs), such as a company reducing its carbon emissions, promoting gender diversity or other environmental, social and governance-related targets. If a company hits its targets it will usually benefit from lower interest rates on the loan. 

Following a slowdown during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the market is now bouncing back and a growing number of companies, across many sectors, are engaging with these loans as a way to achieve a range of sustainability goals. 

BNP Paribas has become a true market leader in the SLL market, acting as a mandated lead arranger for more SLLs than any other bank between July 2019 and July 2020. It participated in 56 different SLLs during the awards period, acting as a lead on sustainability discussions in 14 of those transactions. 

Cecile Moitry, co-head of sustainable finance markets at BNP Paribas, says: “Engaging our clients on sustainability is now part of our business as usual. We always start from the clients and their sustainability commitments, and then adapt the solutions to match their needs and strategy. When it comes to sustainability-linked loans, conversations on purpose, ambitions and robust KPIs are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, and we are witnessing a genuine ambition to demonstrate improvement and greater transparency.” 

The bank has been a driving force for innovation, overseeing many notable firsts in the market during the review period. These include Europe’s first SLL with a KPI to promote increased biodiversity, for Finnish paper company UPM’s €750m ($885m) loan in March 2020; the first-ever SLL for a private equity firm, with Eurazeo’s €1.5bn loan in January 2020 having targets around carbon emissions and governance criteria; and the first US dollar SLL with gender diversity targets, for Canadian consultancy WSP’s $1.2bn loan having targets around the number of women in management positions. 

Investment Bank of the Year for Syndicated Loans

Winner: Mashreq bank

Mashreq bank, the UAE’s fifth largest bank by Tier 1 capital, punches considerably above its weight in the syndicated loans market, becoming a regional leader in leveraged, acquisition and syndicated loan finance. Despite being only the 17th largest bank by assets in the Gulf Co-operation Council countries, it is able to compete alongside much bigger regional players across the debt capital markets spectrum. 

Chiradeep Deb, managing director and global head of investment banking at Mashreq, says: “Providing financing options that are tailored towards our clients’ needs is the cornerstone of Mashreq’s market-leading loan syndication business. Over the years, we have consistently leveraged our robust international footprint to arrange a multitude of funding solutions for our diversified client base, while introducing them to new pockets of regional liquidity. We are, therefore, delighted and honoured to win the award. Further, an enriched selection criteria that evaluates the merit and complexity behind each deal, rather than just going by league tables, makes it even more special.”

It has also been able to branch out into serving clients based in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. For instance, it has gained a high-level league table position for loans for African financial institutions and African borrower loans, with its work on deals for leading African banks, such as Standard Bank, Access Bank and Investec. 

One particularly strong example of its role in African markets is the $450m combination of syndicated loans and bonds for Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB), where it acted as the mandated lead arranger, structuring bank and documentation agent. The transaction supported TDB in its objective of growing its investor base in the Middle East.

Locally, Mashreq was a bookrunner in the landmark $1.4bn multi-tranche Islamic syndicated facility for Arabian Centres Company, Saudi Arabia’s largest mall operator, a highly significant deal in the local markets in 2019. 

Internationally, it has been involved in several innovative transactions, including acting as a mandated lead arranger in a $750m pre-export advance facility for steel company, Duferco. The loan will facilitate trade between Duferco in Switzerland and JSW Steel in India, with Duferco acting as the buyer and JSW as the supplier. The unique structure of this facility will allow it to be scalable to support other trade arrangements.

Independent Investment Bank of the Year for Sustainability

Winner: Renaissance Capital

In 2019, Renaissance Capital’s newly established team began advising clients on developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, with it working closely with several large emerging market corporates to develop and implement ESG policy and strategy. While such activity is becoming more commonplace within developed markets, there is also considerable scope for impact within emerging markets, such as in central and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. With its research team preparing ESG reports and flash notes on a regular basis, based on extensive and insightful ESG research — both macro and sector-wise — Renaissance Capital is regarded as one of the pioneers and thought leaders in responsible investments.

In November 2019, Renaissance Capital led on the issuance of a €325m ($383m) green senior unsecured benchmark offering from DTEK Renewables, the renewables arm of Ukraine’s largest energy company. 

The offering was the first Eurobond issuance by DTEK Renewables, which allowed the company to successfully establish the first point on the yield curve at a low level, below the current trading levels of DTEK Energy’s Eurobond — another company of the DTEK Group. The transaction was the first renewables-related green bonds out of the region.

The placement is a landmark debut for the company, the region and the sector, allowing DTEK to pioneer in the green markets, set up its first euro benchmark, further diversify its debt portfolio and secure financing for its large pipeline of projects, and provides a springboard for further similar activity in the region. 

Investment Bank of the Year for Sustainability

Winner: HSBC

HSBC has established itself as a leading player in the drive to transition to a more sustainable economy. As shown by it scooping our awards for green bonds and sustainable sovereign and agency financing, and its strong performance in several other sustainability categories, it is making its impact on sustainability felt in numerous areas. The bank is able to leverage its well-established network to drive activity across geographies, including in fast growing emerging markets.

Daniel Klier, group general manager and global head of sustainable finance at HSBC, says: “To really move the needle on environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations, we need to take a holistic, global approach. With our global scale and reach, and our specialist expertise in Asia and emerging markets, HSBC is uniquely well-placed to deliver financing solutions that meet the specific needs of individual clients and markets within the bigger global picture. And thanks to our strong track record in sustainable finance, ESG considerations are baked into our business activities and financing decisions.”

There are three main pillars to HSBC’s sustainability agenda: enabling sustainable infrastructure and energy systems; financing transition toward net-zero; and enhancing investor capital through sustainable investments. It is already succeeding with the first pillar, advising and financing growing industries, such as energy and electric vehicle-charging infrastructure storage, and bringing unique product offerings with region-specific focus, such as the first ever green sukuk issuance for clean transportation. This includes HSBC being the first foreign bank to provide major tax-equity financing to fund renewables in the US for an international client, directly from its own balance sheet. HSBC acted as exclusive tax equity investor and exclusive project-level letter of credit issuer for a 30-megawatt wind project in Texas, developed by Engie, to the value of $1.6bn.

On transition, in both developed and emerging markets, it has supported sovereigns and corporates to decarbonise their activities, including in challenging sectors such as chemical, steel and fertiliser industries. 

Indeed, a key part of its focus is to engage with businesses operating in hard to decarbonise industries, which today account for 30% of global emissions. HSBC financed the construction of a new 2800 tonne/day fertiliser plant for Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC). By doing so, HSBC addressed the country’s lagging investments in the fertiliser sector and reduced its reliance on expensive fertiliser imports, which threatened local livelihoods as well as the nation’s self-sufficiency. 

The plant will replace two of BCIC’s oldest and most inefficient plants, trebling their combined output of fertiliser, which boosts crop yield. It will be the first plant in Bangladesh to use carbon capture technology, preventing greenhouse gas emissions of 433,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. 

Mr Klier says: “Our key priority will be supporting our clients in the transition to low-carbon to ensure their ongoing prosperity and increased resilience. We will continue to provide a wide range of green and sustainable finance solutions, and increase our focus on transition finance to help the most carbon-intensive sectors to decarbonise. Another key focus will be accelerating the development of sustainable infrastructure to support the transition.”

On sustainable investments, HSBC offers a full suite of ESG capabilities across asset management, global markets, research and securities services, enabling institutional and individual investors to manage risk and pursue ESG-related opportunities. This includes introducing innovative products, such as its sustainable equity exchange-traded funds and introducing the first ever green deposits, for retail customers in Hong Kong and for corporate customers in the UK and Singapore. Emerging markets have an urgent need to attract sufficient investment to tackle climate-change mitigation and adaption. To support this, HSBC Global Asset Management, together with the International Finance Corporation, created the Real Economy Green Investment Opportunity fund, a global emerging market investment vehicle consisting of a diversified portfolio of emerging market green bonds with a real economy focus.

Recently it has proven itself to be a reliable partner in Covid-19 response and recovery, aiding customers through the crisis and actively engaging in advocacy to link recovery efforts to global sustainability goals. It also led the first sustainable bond issuance in the international markets to specify Covid-19 relief as a use of proceeds. 

Reflecting on the bank’s achievements during the award period, Mr Klier says: “The real highlight has been the increased demand from our clients. Sustainable finance is now very much on the core business agenda. Recognising this, we’ve created a dedicated ESG solutions unit, launched an ESG reporting service, and led a number of market-first transactions. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic has only emphasised the importance of sustainable finance for economic resilience. We’re proud to have issued $66bn in social and Covid-19 relief bonds, including the first international sustainable bond specifically for Covid-19 relief.”

Investment Bank of the Year for Sustainable Corporate Finance

Winner: Nomura

Nomura began embedding environmental, social and governance (ESG) in its business activity more than a decade ago in 2009, and has a governance structure that ensures ESG issues are treated as a high priority, both in how it operates and in the services it provides.

This includes its wholesale sustainability forum, led by the bank’s head of wholesale, which provides a focal point for its efforts to increase the sustainable financing solutions it can provide to clients, not only in more established areas, such as green and sustainability bonds, but in others, such as sustainable mergers and acquisitions (M&A). 

In April 2020, Nomura acquired Greentech, a sustainable advisory boutique, enabling it to upscale its activity within sustainable M&A transactions and private capital placements for sectors such as energy, infrastructure, transportation and industrial and environmental services. The bank has also played a key role in the financial response to Covid-19 — in May alone it supported the issuance of Covid-19 response bonds worth an aggregate notional amount exceeding $15bn.

Charles Pitts Tucker, international head of investment banking and chief client officer at Nomura, says: “In the past year, heightened attention on climate change and the social impacts of Covid-19 have reinforced the importance of financial services that are directed to sustainable financing. Nomura has extended its sustainable corporate finance leadership by acquiring Greentech, giving Nomura expanded experience and expertise, which will enable broader development across our geographies and products.”

The bank has been involved in several transformational deals during the review period. This includes acting as a financial and strategic adviser to UK domestic energy provider OVO, a company with a strong commitment to providing energy sustainably, in its £500m ($650m) acquisition of SSE Energy Services. The transaction was an audacious move by OVO (which then had 1.5 million customers), and involved acquiring 3.5 million customers from SSE (then the UK’s third-largest energy supplier), to become the UK’s second largest energy supplier, and providing a big shake up in the UK energy sector. 

Additionally, Nomura Greentech acted as financial advisor to UniCredit on its sale of Ocean Breeze Energy, the owner of Bard Offshore 1, a North Sea wind farm approximately 100km off the coast of Germany, to Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets. The bank was able to apply its deep knowledge about renewables to anticipate investor questions about the technology and provide appropriate reassurances about the park’s future.

Investment Bank of the Year for Sustainable FIG financing

Winner: BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas has a consistently strong track record of strong dialogue with financial institution group clients around sustainable finance covering the issuance of sustainable securities, carbon offsetting, and accessing and managing green/sustainable assets. Not only has it assisted many banks and insurers to access sustainable finance markets within the review period, such as acting as placement agent for the first-ever green contingent AT1 bond by a financial institution for a €1bn ($1.18bn) transaction by BBVA, it has also led on two pioneering transactions within the private equity sector.

Alexandra Basirov, global head of sustainable finance and financial institutions coverage at BNP Paribas, says: “By choosing how to target their financing, in what to invest, and in which solutions they develop, financial institutions can play a leading role in accelerating the transition to the sustainable economy the world needs. BNP Paribas supports our financial institution clients to fuse positive impact and positive performance by mobilising the full capabilities of our entire group. We’re committed to continuing to do this and thank our clients for their trust in working with us.”

In June, the bank acted as a sustainability coordinator on a subscription credit facility (SCF) for large European private equity firm, EQT. The €2.3bn transaction (with an upper limit of €5bn) is the largest-ever example of an environmental, social and governace-linked SCF. Its pricing mechanism is designed to incentivise the performance of portfolio companies on improving gender equality on their boards of directors as well as on renewable energy transition, underpinned by a sustainability governance platform.

Earlier in the year, in January, BNP Paribas was the sole sustainability coordinator for the first-ever syndicated sustainability-linked loan for a private equity firm. The €1.5bn revolver loan for global investment company, Eurazeo, was a refinancing for a Ä1bn facility and introduced two levels and types of key performance indicators (KPIs) for Eurazeo to hit. The KPIs will incentivise Eurazeo on progress on becoming carbon neutral, while also being tied to sustainability governance criteria for its portfolio of companies. 

Investment Bank of the Year for Sustainable Infrastructure and Project Finance

Winner: Citi

In early 2014, Citi made a 10-year commitment to finance and facilitate a $100bn investment in environmental finance activities to reduce the impacts of climate change and enable positive environmental impact. In 2019, more than four years ahead of schedule, it exceeded its target with a cumulative $164bn in environmental finance activity. Citi’s project and infrastructure finance team played a key role in reaching this target.

Citi has enabled $4.5bn debt capital to be raised globally for sustainable and green projects, including $1.98bn of construction financing for 1.41-gigawatt (GW) worth of onshore renewable projects. 

Geographically, it has executed sustainable financings across its global platforms, from developed markets, such as the UK, Australia and North America to developing markets, such as India, as well as facilitating transactions to enable broader economic development, harness new debt capital for the emerging markets (such as Vietnam, Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico), and provide clients with debt distribution in a multitude of formats.

In early March 2020, during unprecedented market uncertainty, Citi successfully priced a $130m placement to finance John Hancock’s minority interest in ExGen Renewable Partners, a 1.4GW portfolio comprising 30 wind and solar assets across 13 US states. 

Transport assets have been some of the most negatively impacted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, in June 2020, Citi successfully closed the €258m ($305m) refinancing of Antwerp Gateway, the second largest container terminal in the Port of Antwerp, which is, in turn, the second largest port in Europe. Citi led the structuring and placing of the financing as sole financial advisor and placement agent. The transaction was Antwerp Gateway’s inaugural issuance and proceeds will be used to refinance existing debt as well as fund Antwerp Gateway’s expansion plan, including the addition of electric automated stacking cranes and replacement of existing diesel-fuelled straddle carriers.

Nasser Malik, head of structured debt at the bank, says: “Citi was an early pioneer in embedding sustainability into our project and infrastructure finance business, from having led early-generation innovations in onshore wind and solar via monetisation of government guarantees, to leading the largest off-shore wind financings to be done. In the past year, we have been honoured to work with a broad cross-section of sponsors in numerous wind and solar project financings despite challenges precipitated by the pandemic, with Citi’s broader corporate sustainability strategy and goals central to our business prioritisation and approach.”

Investment Bank of the Year for Sustainable SSA financing

Winner: HSBC

Not only has 2020 been a year in which climate and environmental concerns continued to dominate, but also one where sovereigns, supranational and agency (SSA) issuers must grapple with the huge social and economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

During the review period, HSBC has been one of the top bookrunners for supranationals and agencies issuance, and has continued to demonstrate its versatility and ability to support SSA issuers across many geographies and currencies to meet their objectives, in what has been a very busy time for the SSA markets. 

Asif Sherani, managing director and head of debt capital markets syndicate, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at HSBC says: “The development of sustainable financing is at the core of HSBC’s strategy on an institutional level. Both historically and now, SSA borrowers have set important precedents and have paved the way for issuers across sectors in green, social and sustainability bond markets. The global breadth of our SSA platform, paired with our leading sustainable finance network, has positioned HSBC uniquely to advise pioneers in these markets.”

HSBC has supported SSA issuers from across 19 countries, including eight newcomers, to access the green, social and sustainability bond markets. This includes a debut €500m ($592m) sustainability bond from OKB, Austria’s development bank, in September 2019. It was the first sustainability bond from Austria with a split of 70% allocation towards social assets and 30% towards green assets, demonstrating HSBC’s commitment to supporting social-related issuance, even before the outbreak of Covid-19.

It has also been a period where the bank has participated in and led the development of new structures in the market, including Caffil’s green covered bond. 

HSBC has played a leading role in the issuance of Covid-19 response bonds, having led 14 SSA Covid-19 bond issuances, amounting to $28.8bn. One such example includes the Islamic Development Bank’s (IsDB’s) $1.5bn Covid-19 response bond, where HSBC acted as joint lead manager and bookrunner. The issuance marked IsDB’s debut sustainability sukuk offering and the second issuance under its sustainable finance framework, and was a true landmark transaction in both ESG and Islamic finance.

Most Innovative Trading System

Winner: RBC Capital Markets

In a post-Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) world, providing content around fixed income, commodities and currencies (FICC), including trade recommendations, can be challenging for banks. Where content, such as trade recommendations, had traditionally been provided for free and compensated through flows directed to the desk, this is no longer possible as the MiFID regime which requires greater transparency around research costs. 

RBC Capital Markets’ Active Macro Overlay Strategy (Amos) platform has reimagined what that relationship can look like, offering specific daily foreign exchange (FX) trading recommendations for G10 currencies, based on its unique model. The exact cost of the service is stated in a dedicated agreement, and disentangled from any other services provided by RBC. 

The platform is innovative in several respects, including, most fundamentally, the new industry-leading model itself, which looks at speculator positioning within FX markets in order to generate its recommendations. The model examines alternative data sets of FX trades and classifies the trades based on behavioural based rules. RBC says that its ‘positioning monitor’ leads the market standard FX positioning measure by two weeks, giving a considerable edge to its clients. 

The recommendations themselves are also structured to be as helpful to the client as possible, arriving at the same time every day for all G10 currencies, in time for prompt execution. It not only recommends a direction, but also the size of trades relative to one another, and the exact entry point ahead of time.

In a mark of faith in its own recommendations, RBC also puts its money where its mouth is and invests its own capital into the recommendations too, ensuring its interests are aligned with its clients’. RBC rigorously back-tested the model and put its own capital behind the recommendations for six months before taking it to clients. So far, so good: as of August, RBC’s recommendations were up 5.44% since the product launched in August 2019.

“Beyond its technological capabilities, it is very gratifying that The Banker has chosen to recognise Amos for the transparency and smarter decision-making it brings to FX trading,” says Sian Hurrell, head of FICC Europe and global head FX at RBC Capital Markets. 

“Alongside the innovative proprietary model underpinning the platform, Amos openly replicates our own FX positioning-based trading strategy, dollar for dollar, allowing for greater transparency and accountability, which we believe represent the future of the bank and buy-side relationship.”

Best Technology Innovation in Investment Banking

Winner: UBS

UBS has structured its business by putting innovation at the heart of what it does. In 2019, it adopted a new cross-functional organisational model to bring technology and business area specialists closer together through what it calls ‘hybrid pods’. These small teams are made up of four to nine people with different skills, with the aim of driving responsive and high-quality innovation within specific business areas, with a reduced time to market. Within the investment bank specifically, it has also established an ‘innovation lab’ to speed up innovation by facilitating proofs of concept. The lab proactively identifies new or unique opportunities for rapid experimentation to validate the viability of the opportunity in a safe and controlled manner. 

Its efforts have been paying off, with a range of client solutions being brought to market that have significant benefits. This includes UBS-Guard, an activism defence tool, which its bankers use to quickly understand client vulnerabilities and likely level of risk from an activist approach. The predictive elements of the tool give a statistically rigorous and quantifiable estimate of an activist approaching a company within the next two years, and enables an informed discussion about how to minimise the risk. Client feedback suggests that UBS has been the only firm to identify their activism vulnerability beyond simply observing shareholder patterns.

Other strong examples of innovation include UBS Trade Scout, a tool for UBS’s fixed income sales desk, which applies machine learning to internal and external data sources to dynamically match bond axes to relevant clients; and UBS Question Bank — a unique platform which leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a database of real questions being asked by professional investors around the world. This creates a powerful tool for identifying key themes and trends, and enables UBS to be more targeted in the content it creates for clients. 

“It is a great testament to the forward-thinking nature, hard work and partnership of our client-facing and technology colleagues to be recognised by The Banker for Best Technology Innovation in Investment Banking. Our digital transformation journey to meet changing market and client demands is well under way as we continue to develop superior products and services, designed to provide a unique and seamless experience for our clients. With the innovations recognised, and many other products and solutions that leverage technologies to innovate either in place today or in development, we are excited about the future as we continue to evolve our business to meet our clients changing needs,” say Beatriz Martin, chief operating officer, UBS Investment Bank, and Mike Dargan, head of group technology, UBS.   

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