A Financial Analyst collects and analyzes financial information (e.g. economic forecasts, trading volumes and the movement of capital, financial backgrounds of companies, historical performances, and future trends of stocks, bonds, and other investment instruments) in order to assist Bankers, Investors, and Corporate Finance Officers with mergers, acquisitions, and stock/bond offerings, as well as corporate expansions and restructuring. Financial Analysts are employed by a wide range of establishments throughout the private and public sectors, such as banks, brokerage houses, insurance companies, investment companies, manufacturing firms, trust companies, utility companies, and underwriting firms.
Financial Analysts can be divided into two broad categories. Buy-side Analysts and Sell-side Analysts. The former consists of financial professionals who develop investment strategies for companies that have a lot of money to invest. These companies, known as institutional investors, include mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance companies, independent money managers, and non-profit organizations with large endowments, such as universities. On the other hand, Sell-side Analysts advise financial services sales agents who sell stocks, bonds, and other investments. However, some Financial Analysts work for the business media and belong to neither of the aforementioned categories.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Financial Analysts are required to complete.
- Evaluating the financial risks, preparing financial forecasts, financing scenarios, and other documents concerning capital management, and writing reports and recommendations for a company or the company’s clients:
- Planning short and long-term cash flows and assessing the company or the individual’s financial performance;
- analyzing investment projects;
- advising on and participating in the financial aspects of contracts and calls for tender;
- following up on financing projects with financial backers;
- processing bank reconciliations;
- assisting in preparing operating and investment budgets;
- building appropriate financial controls;
- managing changes and applying any corrective actions, as required, for existing financial controls;
- creating standard operating processes/procedures for billing and invoicing; and
- assisting in preparing documentation and communicating with Auditors during year-end and quarter-end reviews, including tax provisions and balance sheets.
- Preparing a regular risk profile for debt portfolios:
- Developing, implementing, and using different tools to manage and analyze financial portfolios.
- Preparing monthly, quarterly, and annual financial statements:
- Performing monthly reviews and analyses on overhead spending against budget;
- assisting during the preparation of the annual budget; analyzing profit margins at the end of every month, reporting observations to senior management and operations leaders.
- Selecting a group of products, industries, and regions for their company’s investment portfolio:
- Explaining investment decisions and strategies to investors and senior management.
- Evaluating the company or government entity’s ability to pay their debts, including bonds:
- Rating the risk of a company or government entity not being able to repay its debts or bonds based on their evaluation.
- Evaluating the risk in investment decisions and determining how to manage unpredictability and limit potential losses for the company:
- Making investment decisions, such as selecting unrelated stocks or having a combination of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in a portfolio.
- Overseeing and supporting financial administrative staff to ensure deadlines are being met.
- Recommending individual investments and collections of investments (portfolios) to clients.
- Evaluating current and historical financial data.
- Studying economic and business trends.
- Reviewing the company’s financial statements to determine its value.
- Meeting with company officials to gain a better insight into the company’s prospects and management.
- Preparing and presenting written financial and economic reports.
- Meeting with investors to explain their recommendations.
The average Financial Analyst salary is $69,289 per year or $36 per hour. This is around 2.1 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $49,000 while most experienced workers make up to $97,000. These results are based on 705 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both in writing and verbally, to effectively explain their recommendations to clients using non-technical language so they can easily understand;
- acting with transparency, keeping executives informed about the decisions to be made and transactions to be executed; and
- establishing and maintaining supportive working relationships.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Prioritizing and planning work activities in order to manage time efficiently while handling a high volume of work; and
- multitasking; being able to work in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills:
- Effectively processing a range of information and finding profitable investments, providing reasonable recommendations;
- being able to assist executives in making financial decisions that affect their organization;
- identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner; and
- being able to exercise strategical thinking and mature judgment.
- Strong attention to detail:
- Paying attention to detail while reviewing possible investments since small issues may have large implications for the health of an investment.
- Accounting, mathematical, and computer skills:
- Being able to use mathematical principles to estimate the value of financial securities; and
- being able to use software programs to analyze financial data, see trends, create portfolios, and make forecasts.
Financial Analysts usually focus on trends affecting a specific industry, geographical region, or type of product. They must be able to understand how new regulations, policies, and political and economic trends may affect investments. Since investing is becoming a global activity, some Financial Analysts decide to specialize in a particular country or region. Therefore, companies want those Financial Analysts to be in the capacity of understanding the language, culture, business environment, and political conditions of the country or region that they cover.
Most Financial Analyst positions require a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Economics, Finance, Statistics, Mathematics, or Engineering. For more senior positions, employers often require a master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or in Finance. Being knowledgeable in subjects such as options pricing, bond valuation, and risk management is a valuable asset for candidates applying for this position. Some employers may require candidates to have obtained the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, available through university programs accredited by the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts, based in the United States, that partners up with over 150 universities across the world.
After having gained enough experience, Financial Analysts can decide to become Portfolio Managers, in charge of supervising a team of Analysts and selecting the types of investments for the company’s portfolio. On the other hand, they can also become Fund Managers, who manage large investment portfolios for individual investors.
Most Financial Analysts work full-time, but a big part of their research must be done after office hours due to the fact that their days are filled with telephone calls and meetings with investors.