By Terry Flanagan

Who are the Best Companies and Individuals in Financial Markets?

There are many firms and people across the buy side and sell side deserving of recognition—— just staying in business in a very challenging market and economy is an accomplishment,
and every won or simply retained customer is a vote of confidence. So we’’re under no delusion that our roster of winners——or anyone else’’s, for that matter——represents an exhaustive list of successful companies.

There inevitably is some measure of subjectivity in determining awards, as one broker-dealer’’s preferred exchange might be another one’’s least favorite, and the OMS loved by one buyside trader may be loathed by another. To add to the challenge of identifying the ‘‘top dogs’’, the categories themselves are not always distinct, with lines sometimes blurring across sell-side desks, technology providers, exchanges and dark pools, just to name a few areas of overlap and convergence.

But as Teddy Roosevelt said, nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty. In that spirit, we present our inaugural Market’’s Choice Awards, recognizing excellence in U.S. markets.

In the same unique style as Markets Media’’s events and publications, the Market’’s Choice Awards span more than 20 categories across exchanges, sell-side desks, institutional buy-side investors, hedge funds, and technology providers.

Our methodology in selecting nominees and then winners was simple yet thorough, and kept the focus on the important opinions: those of market participants, not ours.

We first conducted more than 50 one-on-one interviews with senior market participants across the buy side and sell side, focusing on the areas of their expertise. We asked buy-side traders which sell-side desks they trade through and which technology products they use, and we asked sell-side practitioners their opinions on the best exchanges and the savviest buy-side players. The focus was on 2012 performance. We didn’’t ask any one source for a full panorama, rather the idea was to get at least some high-value information from a wide range of sources, which collectively would form a reasonably complete mosaic of the market landscape.

Congratulations To The Winners!

We then opened up this initial nominee-generating process to readers of MarketsMedia.com and our Twitter followers. Responses from this step weren’’t as in-depth as the one-on-one interviews, and we couldn’’t be sure who was clicking boxes on the other side, but the online polling served as a good supplement by confirming——or calling into question——some of what we learned in the one-one-one interview process.

At this point there were clear winners in some categories and shortlists in others, but not unexpectedly, a few categories showed a wide dispersion of opinion. Our task for the latter two scenarios was to take a fresh look at the responses for quality and depth (for example, the perspective of a buy-side trader who told us he cannot live without a certain technology system would trump two anonymously submitted, unsupported online votes for a competitor), make eleventh-hour calls to a few select sources for clarification and elaboration, and finally, deliberate internally and in consultation with Markets Media’’s Advisory Board to hammer out winners.

Our process was qualitative and imperfect, and the results are sure to spark some disagreements. But that’’s okay, as just like a 21-20 NFL playoff game might come down to a last-minute play, recognizing excellence in the highly competitive financial markets entails some very close calls.

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