Mordor and Isengard, Ali and Frasier, Glitter and Slade. History is punctuated with great rivalries and combos.
The new twin towers of prime broking in Asia for the next decade might be Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley. For the second straight time they have dominated a poll, the latest held on the AsianInvestor website last week, in which just over 10,000 people voted.
The options weren't just Deutsche or Morgan Stanley. Voters had the chance to choose any of the major prime brokers. It ended up as a 53%/45% split in favour of the German firm. In third place was Goldman Sachs with 1% of the vote. Every other firm showed statistical snake eyes, with their votes aggregated as zero.
We got a message from the action man.
"We feel Deutsche Bank will be one of four or so major players that will dominate this industry both here in Asia and globally," says Harvey Twomey, the Hong Kong-based boss of Deutsche's sales and capital-introductions business in Asia. "Some prime brokers may emerge stronger in certain geographies or in specific strategy coverage, however.
"As competition in the industry intensifies it will become very difficult for one or two firms to dominate," he adds. "We believe this is positive for hedge funds and their investors."
Is our poll scientific? No, we'd be the first to admit it isn't. Yet can we infer these winners will be part of a duopoly plus/plus?
Yes, because both houses are competitive and they always come wearing their game face. Prime broking is about showing up and getting it done, whether for client operational queries or hedge-fund pitches. This pair invariably shows up for a big pitch. Not all can say the same.
Some houses scorn polls, as the outcomes are unpredictable and can cause loss of face (unless presumably they're pre-rigged for them to win). Nobody is saying they have to be good losers, but not bothering to incline your finger one nanometre to click on your own shop does seem to show an almost Lehmanite degree of indolence.
One house that recorded zip last week told us they would never pull their finger out for one of our polls. Then again, they wouldn't still be spending their bonuses if it weren't for their national taxpayers.