Financial analyst

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A financial analyst is a professional, undertaking financial analysis for external or internal clients as a core feature of the job.[1] [2] The role may specifically be titled securities analyst, research analyst, equity analyst, investment analyst, or ratings analyst.[3][4] The job title is a broad one:[5][6][7][8] in banking, and industry more generally, various other analyst-roles cover financial management and (credit) risk management, as opposed to focusing on investments and valuation; these are also discussed in this article.

Role[edit]

Financial analysts are employed by mutual- and pension funds, hedge funds, securities firms, banks, investment banks, insurance companies, and other businesses, helping these companies or their clients make investment decisions. [3] In corporate roles, financial analysts perform budget, revenue and cost modelling and analytics as part of their responsibilities;[7][9][10] credit analysis is likewise a distinct area. [11]

Financial analysts invariably use spreadsheets (and statistical software packages) to analyze financial data, spot trends, and develop forecasts. The analyst often also meets with company officials to gain a better insight into a company's prospects and to determine the company's managerial effectiveness.

Securities firms[edit]

In a stock brokerage house or investment bank (discussed below), the analyst will[2] read company financial statements and analyze commodity prices, sales, costs, expenses, and tax rates in order to determine a company's value and project future earnings. On the basis of their results, they write reports and make presentations, usually making recommendations to buy or sell a particular investment or security.

Typically, at the end of the assessment, an analyst would provide a rating recommending or investment action: to buy, sell, or hold the security. Senior analysts may actually make the decision to buy or sell for the company or client if they are the ones responsible for managing the assets. Other, "junior" analysts use the data to model and measure the financial risks associated with making a particular investment decision. See Securities research § Career path.

Usually, financial analysts study a specific industry - "sector specialists" - assessing current trends in business practices, products, and industry competition. [4] Among the industries with the most analyst coverage are biotechnology, financial services, energy, mining / resources, and computer hardware, software and services. Analysts must keep abreast of new regulations or policies that may affect the industry, as well as monitor the economy to determine its effect on earnings. A 1999 paper by Ezra Zuckerman found that, as equity analysts divide securities by discrete sectors, companies which fall outside or across multiple sectors are punished in the ratings of analysts [12]

Analysts also specialize in fixed Income. Similar to Equity Analysts, Fixed Income Analysts assess the value and analyze the risks of various securities, here focusing on interest rate- and fixed income securities, particularly bonds. They may further specialize, but here by issuer-type, i.e. municipal bonds, government bonds, and corporate bonds; the latter specialization is often decomposed into convertible bonds, high yield bonds, and distressed bonds; some cover syndicated bank loans. The reporting focuses on the ability of the issuer to make payments - similar to the credit analysis described below - but also on the relative value of the security in question, and in context of the overall market and yield curve. See Fixed income analysis.

Analysts are generally divided into 'sell-side' and 'buy-side'. The buy-side is sometimes considered more prestigious, professional, and scholarly, while the sell-side may be higher-paid and more like a sales and marketing role. It is common to begin careers on the sell-side at large banks then move to the buy-side at a fund.

  • A sell-side analyst's work is not used by its employer to invest directly, rather it is sold either for money or for other benefits by the employer to buy-side organisations. Sell-side research is often used as 'soft money' rather than sold directly, for example provided to preferred clients in return for business. Writing reports or notes expressing opinions is always a part of "sell-side" (brokerage) analyst job and is often not required for "buy-side" (investment firms) analysts. It is sometimes used to promote the companies being researched when the sell-side has some other interest in them, as a form of marketing, which can lead to conflicts of interest.
  • A buy-side analyst, such as a fund manager, works for a company which buys and holds stocks itself, on the analyst's recommendation. As they gain experience, analysts often move from buy-side research, concerning individual securities and sectors, into portfolio management itself, selecting the mix of investments for a company's portfolio. They may also become fund managers and manage large investment portfolios for individual investors.

Typically, analysts use fundamental analysis principles, but technical analysis and tactical evaluation of the market environment are also routine. Analysts obtain information by studying public records and filings by the company, as well as by participating in public earnings calls where they can ask direct questions to the management. Additional information can be also received in small group or one-on-one meetings with senior members of management teams. However, in many markets such information gathering became difficult and potentially illegal due to legislative changes brought upon by corporate scandals in the early 2000s. One example is Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) in the United States. Many other developed countries also adopted similar rules.

Analyst performance is ranked by a range of services such as StarMine owned by Thomson Reuters or Institutional Investor magazine. Research by Numis found that small companies with the most analyst coverage outperformed peers by 2.5 per cent — while those with low coverage underperformed by 0.7 per cent.[13]

Controversies about financing[edit]

Analyst recommendations on stocks owned by firms employing them may be seen as potentially biased. Debate still exists about the way sell-side analysts are paid.

Usually brokerage fees pay for their research. But this creates a temptation for analysts to act as stock sellers and to lure investors into "overtrading". Some consider that it would be sounder if investors had to pay for financial research separately and directly to fully independent research firms.

The research department sometimes doesn't have the ability to bring in enough money to be a self-sustaining research company. The research analysts' department is therefore sometimes part of the marketing department of an investment bank, brokerage, or investment advisory firm.

Since 2002 there has been extra effort to overcome perceived conflicts of interest between the investment part of the firm and the public and client research part of the firm (see accounting scandals). For example, research firms are sometimes separated into two categories, brokerage and independent. Independent researchers are not part of an investment firm and so don't have the same incentive to issue overly favorable views on companies. But this might not be sufficient to avoid all conflicts of interest. In Europe, the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2004 and subsequent related legislation has in part been an attempt to clarify the exact remit of equity analysts.

A recent development is the introduction of "MiFID 2" (Directive 2014/65/EU), a legal framework for securities markets, investment intermediaries, and trading venues. Particularly, here, the way that research may be sold is regulated; see § Substance there, and Securities research § Industry Rules.

Investment Banking[edit]

Financial analysts in the investment banking departments of securities or banking firms often work in teams, analyzing the future prospects of companies, and selling shares to the public for the first time via an initial public offering (IPO), or issuing bonds; this task is often identical to that of a securities analyst. On this basis, they will then make presentations to prospective investors re the merits of investing in the new company, presenting their "pitch books" on a “roadshow;” see bookrunner and securities underwriting. An additional component of the IB role here: analysts ensure that all forms and written materials necessary for compliance with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations are accurate and complete.

Many IB analysts work in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) departments, similarly preparing analyses on the costs and benefits of a proposed merger or takeover, and assisting with regulatory submissions; here there are both buy-side- and sell-side analysts. See Chinese wall § Finance. The analysis is somewhat more specialized than for an IPO, as it must consider: (i) valuation pre- and post-merger, a function of efficiencies, synergies, and / or increased market share, (ii) financing employed, including M&A specific considerations such as the swap ratio, and (iii) tax implications. Compare Business valuation and Stock valuation.

At more senior levels, "vice presidents" (VPs, or Senior SVPs) will manage the workflow and deliverables (modelling performed by "associate" AVPs), but not be involved in the detail per se. Directors will be responsible for "rainmaking" and maintaining existing client relationships. The latter role incorporates a significant advisory element - guiding the client re their profile and exposure in the capital markets, and advising on M&A and other corporate activity [14] (and liaising with sales and trading).

Middle office[edit]

Within banking, there are other non-quant analyst roles (not necessarily titled "financial analyst"), mainly within the "middle office"; these are generally linked, at least by dotted line, to both the Finance and Risk Management areas.

These areas, together with the various dedicated “Risk Groups”, allow "Finance" to advise Senior Management re the firm's global risk exposure and the profitability and structure of the firm's various businesses; see Financial risk management § Banking. A comptroller (or financial controller) is a senior position, responsible for these analyses and internal control more generally, usually reporting to the bank's chief financial officer, as well as copying the chief risk officer.

Corporate and other[edit]

Financial Analysts within corporates [2] [15] [16] provide inputs into all elements of the firm's financial management.[9][6] The short term focus is on working capital management, and includes tasks such as profitability analysis, cost analysis, variance analysis, and treasury management. Medium term elements are budgeting and planning; their models here form the basis for financial forecasting, scenario analysis (sometimes re corporate strategy),[17] and balance sheet optimization .[10] The latter, extends to involvement with dividend policy, and capital structure; relatedly, forecasts here also feed into group ALM. Analysts are also involved with long term "capital budgeting", i.e. decisions relating to "project" selection and valuation and related funding decisions; these forecasts feed through to the Debt Capital Markets team, "DCM", responsible for securing and managing long-term funding. Risk analytics will span all perspectives. Management of these deliverables sits with the financial manager (FM); while budget analyst, cost analyst, treasury analyst/manager, and risk analyst/manager are often specialized roles. The area overall is sometimes referred to as "FP&A" (Financial Planning and Analysis). [16] The financial director or chief financial officer (FD, CFO) has primary responsibility for managing the company's finances, including financial planning, management of financial risks, record-keeping, and financial reporting.

There are several analyst roles related to credit risk, macro or micro.[11] Ratings analysts (who are often employees of ratings agencies), evaluate the ability of companies or governments that issue bonds to repay their debt. On the basis of their evaluation, a management team assigns a rating to a company's or government's bonds. Financial analysts employed in commercial lending perform balance sheet analysis, examining the borrower's audited financial statements and corollary data in order to similarly assess lending risks, and to confirm that yield is appropriate given risk; this task is both upfront and on a monitoring basis thereafter. The focus is on current and forecasted debt- and liquidity ratios generally, and specifically those related to any loan covenants, such as DSCR and LTVR. In retail banking, credit analysts build models to determine an applicant's creditworthiness, assign an initial credit score, and monitor this and the loan on the basis of an ongoing "behavioral" score. In the latter two roles, impairment- and provision-modelling are a prominent deliverable (see IFRS 9); the PD, EAD and LGD statistics or models are (often) provided by a separate (but dedicated) credit-quant team.

Some financial analysts specialize as "accounting analysts"; they will collect industry data (mainly balance sheet, income statement and capital adequacy in banking sector), merger and acquisition history and financial news for their clients. They then typically “standardize“ the different companies' data, facilitating peer group analysis: the main objective here is to enable their clients to make better decisions about the investment across different regions. They also provide the abundance of financial ratios calculated from the data gathered from financial statements, and possibly other sources.

Qualification[edit]

General[edit]

In general, a business-related bachelor's degree majoring in Accounting, in Finance, or in Economics is a minimum requirement for an entry or junior role (as well as proficiency in Excel[15][2] – see under Financial Modeling). [6] Often, more senior analysts are expected to then earn an MBA,[2] having gained 2–3 years experience in the junior role. Increasingly, it is preferred that, even to enter, analysts hold a master's degree in finance.

More specific qualifications may be required.[6] In (senior) financial management roles, a professional accounting certification – the CPA, CA, CMA, or CIMA – is often a prerequisite; this, given the overlap with tax and financial reporting.[18] Credit-related analysts, depending on their role, may require the FRM / PRM, or an actuarial qualification; these also apply to risk managers. In more commercial credit-roles, an industry certification, such as the Credit Business Associate from the NACM[19] may be required. In treasury management roles, analysts often hold the ACT or CTP credential.[6]

Securities and Investment banking[edit]

In securities and IB roles,[3] it is lately preferred that, similarly, even to enter, analysts earn a master's or the CFA designation (in Europe, the CIIA also), with the MBA still common at senior levels. There are also many regulatory requirements. For example, in the United States, sell-side or Wall Street research analysts must register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). In addition to passing the General Securities Representative Exam, candidates must pass the Research Analyst Examination (series 86/87) in order to publish research for the purpose of selling or promoting publicly traded securities. For other jurisdictions, see List of securities examinations.

For sector specialists – with approximately five years industry experience – less weight is placed on finance qualifications, as a relevant advanced degree or qualification in the field is often necessary. [20] (They will later be encouraged to earn the CFA, CIIA, or MBA.) For example, valuing financial service firms and valuing mining corporates requires specialized knowledge regarding their valuation-, regulatory-, and accounting standards; and, respectively, qualifications in actuarial science,[21] and mining engineering / geology[22] will often be required. Other sectors may similarly require specific technical qualifications: e.g. in pharmacy / life sciences for "bio-tech"; [23] in electronic engineering for (some) areas in "high tech", e.g. semiconductors.[20]

Most large teams will also include a CPA or CA in a dedicated technical role. (In the Commonwealth, the CA qualification is often sufficient to access (junior) analyst roles.) Large trading houses, and banks, often employ an economics team, usually led by a PhD in the discipline, while a masters in economics is the typical requirement to join the team. This team produces the economic forecasts informing the various valuations and investment strategy; [24] see Investment banking § Research. Banks often recruit analysts with accounting qualifications to the middle office roles.


See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See generally: Leon Wansleben (2012) 'Financial Analysts' In: K. Knorr Cetina & A. Preda (eds.), Handbook of the Sociology of Finance, Oxford: Oxford UP, pp. 250–271
  2. ^ a b c d e Careers in Finance. §1.4 in Julie Dahlquist, Rainford Knight, Alan S. Adams (2022). Principles of Finance. ISBN 9781951693541.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b c Financial Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. ^ a b Financial Analysts, collegegrad.com
  5. ^ What does a financial analyst do?, Rasmussen College
  6. ^ a b c d e Financial Managers, collegegrad.com
  7. ^ a b Financial Analyst job description guide, Robert Half
  8. ^ Financial Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  9. ^ a b Financial Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  10. ^ a b Budget Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  11. ^ a b Credit Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  12. ^ Zuckerman, Ezra W. (18 May 1999). "The Categorical Imperative: Securities Analysts and the Illegitimacy Discount". American Journal of Sociology. 104 (5): 1398–1438. doi:10.1086/210178. JSTOR 10.1086/210178. S2CID 143734005.
  13. ^ "Brokers and managers grapple with Mifid 'inducement' rule (Subscribe to read)". Financial Times. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  14. ^ Shaun Beaney, Katerina Joannou and David Petrie What is Corporate Finance?, Corporate Finance Faculty, ICAEW, April 2005 (revised January 2011 and September 2020)
  15. ^ a b Financial Analyst Job Description, Corporate Finance Institute
  16. ^ a b Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professional, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
  17. ^ Joel G. Siegel; Jae K. Shim; Stephen Hartman (1 November 1997). Schaum's quick guide to business formulas: 201 decision-making tools for business, finance, and accounting students. McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-058031-2. Retrieved 12 November 2011. §39 "Corporate Planning Models". See also, §294 "Simulation Model".
  18. ^ Top Executives, collegegrad.com
  19. ^ "How Do I Become a Credit Analyst?". Retrieved 2016-07-07.
  20. ^ a b Equity Research Recruiting: The Definitive Guide, Luis Miguel Ochoa
  21. ^ Career Paths for Actuaries
  22. ^ "Inside the world of the mining analyst | Investec Focus". www.Investec.com.
  23. ^ Biotech Equity Research, Brian DeChesare
  24. ^ "Economic Analyst", investopedia.com

Further reading[edit]