What is a Financial Analyst?
What Does a Financial Analyst Do?
Both sell-side analysts and buy-side analysts perform detailed research on company’s financial data, in addition to thorough financial analysis and creating financial models, to inform investment decisions. Financial analysts will typically focus on either equity markets or credit markets.
Both credit and equity analysis are also relevant for research analysts. Research analysts and financial analysts are different, because financial analysts are more likely to make investing recommendations using the data they analyze, while research analysts tend to be involved in a broader, more investigative data collection and interpretation process.
Sell-Side Financial Analysts
- Focus on niche sectors and sub-sectors providing reports based on company’s financial data
- May work as a ratings analyst to place “buy”, “sell”, and “hold” recommendations on company stocks
- Benefits: Provide useful information to clients and buy-side analysts; add value to an organization when an analysts’ predictions bring in new investor business
- Drawbacks: Pressure to be one of the first analysts to provide an accurate rating on a stock; relationship management may sway clients more than the quality of the research
Buy-Side Financial Analysts
- May cover multiple sectors of responsibility for clients, providing a broader scope of work than sell-side analysts
- Combine their own research with interpretations of existing sell-side research to provide actionable solutions
- Benefits: Identify potential negative outcomes for investors to avoid; help investors understand which sell-side analysts are producing quality work
- Drawbacks: More pressure to be accurate in recommendations than sell-side analysts experience
Financial Analyst Job Description
Most financial analyst job descriptions, whether buy-side or sell-side, include the following key responsibilities:
- Research industry-specific financial developments including broad economic trends and business trends
- Analyze financial statements to evaluate investment opportunities
- Create financial modeling for investors to find profitable investments
- Recommend individual investments and collections of investments
- Asses the performance of stocks, other types of investments, and bonds
- Translate financial data into detailed presentations and easy-to-understand financial reports
- Communicate with C-suite executives from client companies to understand company needs
- Stay up to date with new technologies and market conditions
Common words that you will find in financial analyst job descriptions include “insights” and “due diligence”, which reflect the level of responsibility inherent to this position, and “model” and “report”, which reflect the degree of analytical skill and client-facing duties involved in this area of work. It's important to note that interpersonal skills are also crucial for this role.
How to Become a Financial Analyst
Senior financial analyst positions tend to have a heavier emphasis on communicating directly with high-ranking client contacts, speaking with company management, and developing marketing ideas to promote financial analyst services to potential new clients. Therefore, having experience in demonstrating good communication skills to develop client relationships with company officials is essential to have a successful career. Also, proving one’s ability to think strategically on behalf of clients is another way to improve chances of career advancement into a more senior role.
Top Skills for a Financial Analyst
Four areas of valuable skill for financial analyst in the investment industry include analytical / math skills, industry or sector expertise (including awareness of the regulatory environment), awareness of global current events, and persuasive communication skills.
Is a Financial Analyst Career Right for Me?
A day in the life of a senior financial analyst will likely involve supervisory work of junior analysts, synthesis of junior analyst findings to finalize client recommendations or insights, and direct networking with clients. Depending on the senior analyst’s position on the buy side vs. the sell side, there may be travel requirements involved in the course of client meetings and presentations. Career advancement for senior analysts can include becoming a portfolio manager or fund manager where they manage a company's investment portfolio. They have the ability to move into high ranking roles in investment banking.
If you enjoy analytical work that produces actionable insights on behalf of clients making lucrative financial decisions, then this job could be a great career path for you. If you enjoy a job where you can preserve a 40-hour work week or need to work in a space with little client-facing interaction, it may be a good idea to look toward other finance industry roles to determine if they are a better fit.
CFA Charter vs. Other Financial Analyst Credentials
Many hiring managers for financial analyst jobs list the CFA charter as a desired qualification. As a leading certification in the investment management and asset management industry, the Chartered Financial Analyst designation demonstrates to a current or potential employer that you have completed rigorous preparation for this challenging three-level examination in the fundamentals of investment tools, valuing assets, portfolio management, and wealth planning.
Since the CFA designation also carries with it a commitment to promoting ethical practices in the investment management industry, and provides access to a global network of investment management professionals, it can go a long way in convincing clients of an analyst’s trustworthiness and in supporting the networking demands of the financial analyst job description.
Other Finance & Investment Management Career Tracks
Interested in exploring other financial services roles beyond buy-side or sell-side financial analysts? Check out our career hub for more role descriptions, including:
- Research Analyst
- Investment Strategist
- Risk Analyst & Manager