World’s Best Investment Banks 2021: Best Crisis Finance Solutions

Banks were rewarded last year for adapting quickly to the global crisis and moving fast to address their clients’ liquidity and other funding demands.

DBS Stronger Together Fund provided food and other aid.

A smooth sea does not make a skilled sailor. The Covid-19 pandemic forced investment banks and other financial institutions to improve their performance internally and externally in order to navigate the unprecedented crisis.

Banks that distinguished themselves in helping their clients through the crisis had in common early adaptation to keep their internal operations and client work running smoothly—and remotely—and were nimble in devising solutions that quickly addressed clients’ funding demands. For many, this left them well placed to advise on the spate of major deals that materialized later in the year. Along the way, these banks provided much-needed help to their local communities and employees.

Singapore-headquartered DBS received dual recognition as Global Finance’s Best Investment Bank for Crisis Finance Solutions globally as well as in the Asia Pacific region. The bank accelerated its multiyear digital road map to convert “the last mile” of manual processes into a touchless environment.

“Due to Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time, we pioneered the use of a novel online application channel allowing for rights-acceptance via the internet, enabling shareholders to exercise rights-acceptance digitally,” says Eng-Kwok Seat Moey, managing director and head of the Capital Markets Group at DBS.

DBS leveraged this capability to win assignment as sole financial adviser and joint lead manager of Singapore Airlines’ 8.8 billion Singapore dollar (about $6.5 billion) rights issue last June: the largest-ever equity fundraising and rights issue in Singapore.

“The seamless and timely execution of the fundraising spoke to the commitment and innovative spirit of DBS amidst a period of great uncertainty,” Eng-Kwok says.

The bank also established a S$10 billion facility, dubbed the “DBS Stronger Together Fund,” which has provided 4.5 million meals, care packages and medical supplies for areas where DBS has a presence.

Afreximbank (African Export-Import Bank), our winner for Crisis Solutions in Africa, acted quickly at the beginning of the pandemic, launching its $3 billion Pandemic Trade Impact Mitigation Facility in March to assist member countries in managing the financial, economic and health effects of the outbreak. It increased the facility’s size in December, when it closed a $520 million facility with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), the first to be covered by Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI).

“The successful implementation of this facility is a testimony to the great collaboration and innovative approach adopted by MUFG, NEXI and Afreximbank,” Amr Kamel, executive vice president for Business Development and Corporate Banking at Afreximbank, said in a December statement. The fund “demonstrates the power of using public resources to leverage private financing for development.”

To meet client demand, the bank raised $5.9 billion by the end of June from internal sources including loan repayments; new borrowing via syndicated loans; and committed lines from development finance institutions, export credit agencies and commercial banks. It also accessed resources from the African Resource Mobilization Unit. In all, the bank dispersed $6.1 billion to countries, financial institutions and corporations to ease the demands placed on them by Covid-19.

Afreximbank activated its business continuity management plan within days of the pandemic to prevent service interruptions. As part of its protocol, it banned employee travel outside of employee duty stations and in-person visits to their offices, permitted employees to work from home, provided medical briefings and knowledge-sharing sessions for employees and their families and engaged medical consultants at various office locations.

Our Best Bank for Crisis Finance Solutions in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia’s Renaissance Capital, responded to the emergency with an online strategy to maintain a business-as-usual environment and permit clients to carry on their trading despite closed borders and uncertain capital markets.

“We held more than 100 investor events in total,” says co-CEO Anna Vyshlova, including the bank’s flagship Annual Russia Investor Conference and events focused on Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Romania and Turkey. “Our 2020 virtual conferences hosted more than 900 one-on-one and group calls between 163 companies and 907 investors, in addition to 55 deal and non-deal roadshows.”

Sticking to its strategy, the bank maintained its share of its core markets over 2020, including the London Stock Exchange’s International Order Book (8.1%), the Moscow Exchange (9.2%), the Nigerian Stock Exchange (8.45%) and the Nairobi Securities Exchange (19.2%).

Brazil’s Itaú BBA, 2021 Best Investment Bank for Crisis Finance Solutions in Latin America, and its controlling shareholders donated more than 1.2 billion reais (about $213 million) toward pandemic research, acquisition of medical and protective equipment for healthcare professionals, training for municipal public managers to set up crisis offices and development of strategies for resuming safe social activities.

The bank’s most recognizable initiative has been its “Todos pela Saúde,” or “All for Health,” awareness campaign, which it developed with its ad agency partner Agência Africa. Aiming to encourage people to wear protective masks, Itaú projected a properly proportioned image of a mask and a red heart, with the hashtag “#MascaraSalva” (“mask saves”), onto Rio de Janeiro’s most recognizable resident, the statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks the city.

The pandemic has not had a significant impact on the bank’s internal operations and efficiency, since its technology investments enabled it to quickly order employees to work from home, noted then-CEO of Itaú Unibanco, Candido Bracher, during a third-quarter earnings call. “Most of our efficiency gains are projected upon the better use of technology,” he said.

While Mashreq may not be the largest bank in the Middle East, the nimble bank’s strategic investment in technology made it the region’s Best Investment Bank for Crisis Finance Solutions in 2021. Mashreq accelerated its digital migration to speed client onboarding and increase its paperless transaction offerings, reaching a 90% digital transaction rate by October, says Joel Van Dusen, head of Corporate and Investment Banking. Its digital investor meetings helped Mashreq close deals in Asia worth $6 billion, along with deals in Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa worth $1 billion and $700 million, respectively. It also has made significant investments to support Covid-awareness campaigns in the local communities where it operates.

Within the first two months of the pandemic, the corporate and investment banking (CIB) business of our Best Investment Bank for Crisis Finance Solutions in North America, J.P. Morgan, helped clients raise $940 billion in the capital markets and provided more than $80 billion in credit across numerous markets.

“Even as lockdowns went into effect, we continued to process crucial payments for governments and companies,” says a CIB spokesperson. “In fact, at the height of the crisis, we processed up to $11 trillion of critical payments in a day.” The global bank set records during the pandemic leveraging its strength and resiliency, helping clients bolster their balance sheets, shift priorities and accelerate their digital strategies, the spokesperson adds.

J.P. Morgan enacted resilience measures quickly after the start of the pandemic; within days, 90% of its employees were working remotely, with the same secure access to information and resources as they had at their work desks.

The bank also introduced additional security and health protocols for those entering buildings and rearranged work areas to redirect the flow of traffic to ensure social distancing. On-site testing was available at 26 of its health and wellness centers.

Amid a crisis-ridden year, Danish giant Nordea, Global Finance’s Best Investment Bank for Crisis Finance Solutions in Western Europe, played a significant role in preparing US funding for a broad spectrum of deals, including those for meeting immediate liquidity needs and enabling continued investments. The bank also continued to advise stakeholders and shareholders on complex translations involving debt capital, equity and M&A, maintaining its high perch in Refinitiv’s league tables for investment banking income.

While it moved 70% of its employees to work remotely, Nordea completed such notable transactions as the €561 million (about $663 million) merger of beverage makers Altia and Arcus and pet care company Musti Group’s €182 million initial public offering.