Each day, countless bits and bytes of financial information are gathered, monitored and crunched to keep markets – and companies – in the green.
While computers do a lot of the work for us, at some point human beings have to check out the data and make decisions based on what it says.
They don’t make all the big decisions, but Financial Analysts play a key role in that process. It’s one of the most common entry level jobs in finance, so we’ve compiled everything you need to know about being – and becoming – a Financial Analyst right here!
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What does a Financial Analyst do?
Well, the job title itself is actually pretty self explanatory. In simple terms, you collect and analyze financial information, and then make recommendations to your company, customers or clients based on your analysis. Especially early on, you’ll spend a lot of time working on spreadsheets, creating reports and giving presentations.
However, there are many different types of Financial Analysts, such as Securities Analysts, Investment Analysts or Ratings Analysts, and they can work for a number of different types of organizations, including insurance companies, investment banks, mutual funds, pension funds, hedge funds and securities firms, as well as companies that operate in any industry in Canada! Each type of analyst will perform different functions and have different responsibilities on a day-to-day basis.
Buy side vs. sell side
Most commonly, Financial Analysts are broken up into two distinct groups: those who work on the “buy side” and those who work on the “sell side.”
Buy side: Analysts on the buy side work for organizations that have money to invest (also known as institutional investors). Institutional investors can be funds, insurance companies, hospitals, colleges and universities – basically anyone who has money and needs help developing investment strategies.
Sell side: These are the “sexy” analyst jobs that many students dream of, with investment banks and securities firms. Analysts on the sell side help these companies price and sell their products.
Outside of this structure, Financial Analysts may also evaluate organizations’ abilities to repay their debts or be responsible for performing budget and cost analyses.
Typically, an undergraduate degree in accounting, business administration, economics, finance, management or statistics is required for entry level Financial Analyst jobs.
Some Financial Analysts choose to complete MBAs, and obtain a variety of accounting- and finance-related certifications and designations, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Investment Manager (CIM), Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Certified General Accountant (CGA) designations.
There’s nothing ‘soft’ about soft skills
These roles require candidates who are self starters and have excellent interpersonal, communication and conflict resolution skills. Be sure to highlight these on your resume and point out specific examples in your interview!
Tech it up
General computer proficiency (typing skills, Internet literacy, ability to use Microsoft programs) is essential. Beyond that, the ability to navigate various finance-related software programs will make you a much stronger candidate. Find out what software a company uses before interviewing with them and know a little bit about how it works.
Set yourself apart
Whether you want to work as a Financial Analyst on the buy side or the sell side – or somewhere else altogether – getting a job is going to be competitive. There are, however, a few ways you can stand out:
- Get experience working in a financial services environment while you’re still a student
- Keep your grades up – there are a lot of business students out there and employers only want the best-of-the-best analytical minds
- Get involved in – or start – a finance- or investing-related student group on your campus – many employers work with and recruit directly from these groups
Photo credit: dsw182 on Flickr