SO who really are the hot shot analysts in town? The Top Guns of the broking business? Until last week, the beauty contests that have become an essential part of Wall Street and London were largely absent in Hong Kong. The South China Morning Post 's annual ranking of brokers by fund managers was as close as it got. Personalities remained anonymous. Last week analysts stepped into the spotlight with the publication of the Reuters investment research survey, carried out by Tempest Consultants. The applause was largely drowned out by the sound of crashing markets, and the timing appeared as appropriate as an awards ceremony for the best maintenance crew on the Titanic, but the sashes were still handed out. The Reuters survey - the nearest thing Hong Kong has to the Institutional Investor awards in the United States - was based on fund managers' and companies' votes. International groups had a clean sweep. Top broker for fund managers was Credit Lyonnais. Companies placed Credit in the top three, but Goldman Sachs was tops. When it came to individual analysts, a huge gap opened up between the perceptions of fund managers and company directors. The funds rated SBC Warburg Dillon Read property analyst Franklin Lam tops, Goldman Sachs banking guru Roy Ramos second and Merrill Lynch telecommunications expert Adam Quinton third. The corporates liked analysts who understood conglomerate specialists: Goldman Sachs' Mike Warren, Credit Lyonnais' Brian Parker and Bear Stearns' Scott Benesch. Goldman Sachs executive director and Hong Kong market strategist Mr Warren went into securities in 1994 after working as a chartered accountant for Price Waterhouse. Mr Warren, 35, covered conglomerates for WI Carr and Morgan Stanley before moving to Goldman Sachs in 1996. He said his accounting experience helped him interpret financial statements. He believed writing and presentation of a report were crucial. 'There are many good analysts around, but when it comes to presentation, many fall down.' Consistency and objectivity were keys for good reports. Bear Stearns' Mr Benesch, 29, wanted some real action when he landed in Hong Kong from New York at the beginning of 1997. 'I have certainly seen more action than I expected for the past 16 months,' the Bear Stearns vice-president, originally from Arizona, laughs. For him, the most difficult part of understanding the management of major international companies was the history behind the labyrinth of family ownerships and minority shareholders of Hong Kong blue chips. Mr Benesch used as many resources as possible to reach the truth, such as friends, company financials, the press and the firms' managements. 'There are many backdoor ways, it's a tedious process.' This view was shared by Goldman Sachs banking analyst Mr Ramos, who said scepticism was important. 'Never take what companies tell you at face value.' The 39-year-old's love of investing in stocks led to an analyst's career with Goldman Sachs five years ago. Mr Ramos says his 11-year experience in lending, trade finance and syndication in Mellon Bank in the United States gave him a good combined knowledge of the banking sector. Other tips for a success story were a sound knowledge of the industry and the corporate sector, hard work, thorough research, a good focus on the health of the corporate sector and a regional and global vision. Mr Ramos' seven-strong team warned of a possible devaluation of the Thai baht last January, long before the currency collapsed. Now Mr Ramos is warning asset quality has become a problem for Hong Kong banks, but he was confident they would not be thrown into a crisis. All three warned aspiring rivals that the hours were long and the work hard. This was backed up by the Reuters survey, which showed a typical analyst was aged between 27 and 32, and worked 60 to 80 hours a week, typically following 15 stocks. Only 20 per cent had an accountancy, MBA or CFA qualification. Stories of fabulous salaries are not necessarily true - about 40 per cent of analysts earn between $500,000 to $1 million a year. A further 25 per cent earned $1 to $1.5 million. Only 15 per cent are in the real top gun category, with $1.5 to $2 million.