AsianInvestor bestowed its marquee awards for providing services to the buy-side in Asia-Pacific last night at a black-tie dinner held at the JW Marriott Hotel n Hong Kong.

We named JP Morgan best asset servicer, Morgan Stanley best prime broker and Credit Suisse best sell-side broker for execution and trading (equities).

In addition, we named Citi’s Anthony Nappi and David Russell as Custody Bankers of the Year.

Jame DiBiasio, editor of AsianInvestor, says the award for best asset servicer “is not about size, although JP Morgan certainly has a huge business. It’s about how the organisation has tied together all the moving parts to best help clients react to the global financial crisis.”

JP Morgan’s service goes beyond the basic thread of custody, sub-custody, fund administration and ancillary services, which many competitors have, by recognising the way these functions have converged.

Its executives have a vision of industrial transformation that is not only stronger than elsewhere, but something they have executed on.

It won a record 532 mandates from Asia-Pacific in 2010, while it lost one client. For global clients, the story was as much about accessing emerging markets as it was administrating assets. This level of activity is not to be repeated.

“2010 was a land grab,” one executive put it, as institutional investors and fund managers changed their asset mixes. The firm now has $1.7 trillion of assets under custody from Asia-Pacific clients, including 12 of its target 14 key clients.

Regarding the best prime broker award, Simon Osborne, AsianInvestor managing editor for alternatives, says: “Morgan Stanley has made a fine comeback from the 2008 crisis and its prime brokerage in Asia has taken in net inflows in nine out of the last 12 months.” This represents a major turnaround after the turmoil of being linked to a US investment bank in 2008-09.

The firm has increased headcount in its Asian prime brokerage by over 40% since mid-2009. There are now just over 100 people working in Morgan Stanley prime broking across five countries in Asia. In 2010 it was the only prime broker in the region to be named sole prime on a start-up with more than $90 million (twice).

Morgan Stanley is strong across all prime-broking disciplines, including stock lending, consultancy, cap intro and client service, all underpinned by a $100 million annual investment in proprietary technology.

Heading the team in Asia is Ed Sisterson, and the principal lieutenants reporting to him are Lorraine Wong (sales), Garry Bischoff (client service), Hugh Abdullah (capital introductions) and Chris Duffy (Japanese prime broking).

Credit Suisse is widely recognised for its skill in electronic trading, says DiBiasio, referring to the sell-side broker for execution and trading award. “But AsianInvestor would like to use this opportunity to recognise that the firm is more than just a low-touch player.”

“It is, in fact, among the best-in-class across a host of functions: sales trading, research, onshore service, cash and derivatives. Moreover, it is not only very good at these individual chores, but it has the management and the commitment to integrate these functions. That, not the electronic platform, is the secret sauce.”

Over the summer, AsianInvestor surveyed Asian equity buy-sides. The degree to which CS ranked top or near the top in almost every category was impressive. We asked the market to rank the capabilities most valued in a broker: the answer was ‘access to liquidity’. CS was voted by both long-only and hedge funds as the broker most likely to find liquidity.

Citi’s Anthony Nappi and David Russell jointly won the award for Custodian Banker of the Year. This marquee award is designed to recognise an individual custodian banker who is driving excellence within their organisation and for the industry. In the process of interviewing all the banks as well as the sell-side brokers, AsianInvestor was impressed by the way Citi’s trading desks leverage off its Global Transaction Services business, and vice-versa.

Citi has taken a leadership position in Asia when it comes to market infrastructure and product development (such as ETFs). Its GTS division is directly involved in these initiatives. By combining the power of asset services with brokerage, it is able to lead the discussion in a way that other banks cannot.

Of course, to ascribe this ability to just two people is not meant to suggest that there isn’t a huge contribution from across the firm. But that kind of synergy can only happen if there’s good management.

“For that, AsianInvestor would like to recognise the GTS leadership in Asia for a vision that not only advances Citi’s interests, but is helping the industry at large,” says DiBiasio.

Write-ups of all the award winners will appear in the December edition of AsianInvestor magazine.