Up and coming research and investments house Zenith Investment Partners has bumped established players, Morningstar and Lonsec, from the top spot to become Money Management's 2014 Research House of the Year.
Strong performances in both parts of the Rate the Raters research exercise across both fund managers and financial planning dealer groups saw Zenith outperform its rivals, in what has been a remarkable year for research houses. Two of Australia's five ratings agencies - van Eyk and Lonsec - have found themselves in the media spotlight, van Eyk going into voluntary administration and Lonsec's parent canvassing pursuit of a new investment partner.
Zenith fell fractionally short of topping Money Management's survey of fund managers in July, behind Lonsec, however, it romped to victory in the dealer group survey which was undoubtedly impacted by the events in the market which flowed from van Eyk's dilemmas which began when an illiquid investment in the company's Blueprint International Share Fund by a UK investor grounded redemptions in four of the Blueprint funds and, six weeks' later, saw van Eyk moving into voluntary administration.
Also significant was the fact that the survey covering the period during which Lonsec's parent company, Lonsec Fiscal Holdings, announced it was reviewing its future strategy and may be in the market for a strategic partner.
In recent years Zenith had been pressing hard to become Research House of the Year, but until recently it did not have the scale to secure the title.
Zenith's national sales manager, John Nicoll told Money Management that the team was "elated" to have taken out the top spot.
"We've been close for two or three years now," he said.
"The business has had a steady development, and I think we've done that in a sensible fashion."
The long-time rising star of the research sector recorded a significant swing over the last 12 months in its overall rating in the dealer group survey, with 90 per cent of users rating its service as ‘good' or ‘excellent', up from 65 per cent.
High quality staff, excellent client service and good value for money were critical aspects of Zenith's success, with Nicoll pointing to the company's focus on identifying the needs of financial advisers as a key strength.
"The main thing we always try and do is to understand what our adviser clients are trying to do with their clients," he said.
"[We try to identify] what their needs are and I think that's been a real key¬ we've been working on that for a number of years now."