Kickstarting Your Career as a Financial Analyst
A financial analyst is a professional who provides insights from financial data Oftentimes, responsible for various tasks including organizing, analysing, and reporting data, building financial models, and making forecasts and recommendations to help guide decision making.
Financial analysis guides the decision-making process of an organization by providing data-driven insights that can be leveraged in optimizing a firm’s operation. It entails the use of financial data in assessing the performance of a company, giving recommendations for improvement, and forecasting the future performance of these companies. To business owners, financial analysis allows them to make relevant decisions for profit maximisation or loss minimisation. It also helps investors make informed investment decisions. That is, whether to or not to invest in a business
Financial analysts therefore carry out research to make sound investment decisions for clients or their organisations.
A Quick Guide to Getting Started as a Financial Analyst
· Getting required education
· Acquiring relevant certifications
· Prioritising career development – accelerating your career as a financial analyst
Types of Financial Analysts
Common examples of financial analysts include:
§ Corporate development analyst
Corporate development analysts focus on generating growth and value-adding strategies for a company. For example, they could strategise on how to enter new markets, new partnerships, or M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) transactions.
§ Private equity analyst
Private Equity Analysts carry out research and analysis on private companies. Usually, they do due diligence and use financial models and valuation techniques to analyse the advantages or disadvantages of investing in a private company’s stock.
§ Investment banking analyst
An investment banking analyst is responsible for evaluating and researching investment opportunities for the purpose of recommending investments based on the goals of clients.
§ Equity research analyst
Equity research analysts analyse the financial statement of a company and give recommendations based on their findings. Their job cuts across analysing costs, revenue, risk in a company, preparing reports that could guide decision making, whether to sell, buy or hold financial securities.
As a financial analyst, you will have the opportunity to work in a broad range of firms which include:
· Investment banks and firms,
· Insurance companies
· Real estate investment firms
· Mutual funds
· Hedge funds
· Pension funds
· Private equity firms
· Venture capital firms
· Government agencies etc.
The Various Pathways into the Financial Analyst Career
Most times, an entry level financial analyst role will usually require a bachelor’s degree in Finance or Accounting. Some analysts recommend starting with an accounting degree because a good understanding of financial statements provides a solid foundation. This is however not cast in stone as various industries need people who have an in-depth understanding of the industry in which they are operating asides from a technical degree. Consequently, a degree in Economics, Engineering, Statistics, or any other degree that may be relevant to a firm’s daily activities are also acceptable, as what matters is the ability to analyse financial data. For example, a financial analyst may be interested in helping real estate investment firms find the right properties to invest in.
To become more competitive, professional exams such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute and the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) are highly recommended.
A bachelor’s degree, four years of qualifying work experience and successful completion of three exams are required to become CFA-certified. However, you do not necessarily need to have completed an undergraduate degree to take the ACCA exam.
Critical Success Factors for a Financial Analyst Career
If you are fascinated by data, possess analytical skills/mathematical skills, and interested in Finance, these may be signs that a financial analyst role would be a good fit for you.
To thrive as a financial analyst, you must possess analytical and communication/inter-personal skills. You are also expected to have good industry knowledge e.g., being aware of laws made by regulators, current occurrences locally and globally. It is also important that a financial analyst has a good knowledge of how to use spreadsheets such as Excel, as this will be used very frequently to execute tasks.
Accelerating Your Career as a Financial Analyst
Usually, those who are early into their financial analyst career need to put in significant efforts into improving their skills set and knowledge to thrive and become stellar professionals
Asides choosing the right firm, which would involve performing due diligence (background check) on the firm, in terms of its goals -mission and vision, having a pool of like-minded professionals’ etc., other suggested efforts that could help you grow gradually on your career path include:
· Putting in extra hours and effort of work (not compulsory) especially at the onset to ensure that you start right, gaining excellent quality of knowledge about the basics.
· Set goals and track your goals from time to time
· Keep improving on soft and technical skills (e.g., professional exams).
· Staying updated about relevant news, events, programs, and opportunities e.g., conferences, trainings.
What is a day-to-day activity as a financial activity like?
· Gathering and organising data
· Analysing financial reports
· Making forecasts and recommendations
· Building financial models on Excel
To learn how to build financial models, Leonine learning’s online course – Build Financial Models Like A PRO is highly recommended as it provides a detailed breakdown of relevant Excel basics in addition to the main content – lessons, case studies, practice questions.
So far, we have explored the details of how to become a financial analyst, covering the definition of financial analysis, the types of financial analyst and description of financial analyst roles, the various skills that you need to hit the ground running in your career as a financial analyst as well as critical success factors in becoming a financial analyst.
To those that may be interested in becoming one, it would be particularly important to match the required skills to your personal traits and interests as this is a key factor in helping you have a fulfilling, progressive career
Once these conditions have been met, we are happy to share with you that this role is a very lucrative one, as you would get to develop your skills – analytical, problem solving, communications skills everyday as you take on new tasks, or projects. In line with this, you will become more informed as you would engage in varieties of tasks across industries especially at the early stages of your career.