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What does a Financial Analyst do?
Financial analysts and personal financial advisor's provide analysis and guidance to businesses and individuals to help them with their investment decisions. Both types of specialist gather financial information, analyze it, and make recommendations to their clients. However, their job duties differ because of the type of investment information they provide and the clients they work for. Financial analysts assess the economic performance of companies and industries for firms and institutions with money to invest.
Financial analysts, also called securities analysts and investment analysts, work for banks, insurance companies, mutual and pension funds, securities firms, and other businesses, helping these companies or their clients make investment decisions. Financial analysts 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. They often meet with company officials to gain a better insight into a company’s prospects and to determine the company’s managerial effectiveness.
Usually, financial analysts study an entire industry, assessing current trends in business practices, products, and industry competition. They 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.
Financial analysts in investment banking departments of securities or banking firms often work in teams, analyzing the future prospects of companies that want to sell shares to the public for the first time. They also ensure that the forms and written materials necessary for compliance with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations are accurate and complete. They may make presentations to prospective investors about the merits of investing in the new company. Financial analysts also work in mergers and acquisitions departments, preparing analysis on the costs and benefits of a proposed merger or takeover.
Financial analysts and personal financial advisor's usually work indoors in safe, comfortable offices or their own homes. Many of these workers enjoy the challenge of helping firms or people make financial decisions. However, financial analysts may face long hours, frequent travel to visit companies and talk to potential investors, and the pressure of deadlines. Much of their research must be done after office hours, because their day is filled with telephone calls and meetings. Personal financial advisors usually work standard business hours, but they also schedule meetings with clients in the evenings or on weekends. Many teach evening classes or hold seminars in order to bring in more clients.
A college education is required for financial analysts and is strongly preferred for personal financial advisor's. Most companies require financial analysts to have at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting, statistics, or finance. Coursework in statistics, economics, and business is required, and knowledge of accounting policies and procedures, corporate budgeting, and financial analysis methods is recommended. A master of business administration is desirable. Advanced courses in options pricing or bond valuation and knowledge of risk management also are suggested.
Employers usually do not require a specific field of study for personal financial advisor's, but a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, economics, business, mathematics, or law provides good preparation for the occupation. Courses in investments, taxes, estate planning, and risk management also are helpful. Programs in financial planning are becoming more widely available in colleges and universities. However, many financial planners enter the field after working in a related occupation, such as accountant, auditor, insurance sales agent, lawyer, or securities, commodities, and financial services sales agent.
Financial analysts must be detail oriented, motivated to seek out obscure information, and familiar with the workings of the economy, tax laws, and money markets. Strong interpersonal skills and sales ability are crucial to the success of both financial analysts and personal financial advisor's.
Although not required for financial analysts or personal financial advisor's to practice, certification can enhance one’s professional standing and is strongly recommended by many financial companies. Financial analysts may receive the title Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), sponsored by the Association of Investment Management and Research. To qualify for CFA designation, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree, must have 3 years of work experience in a related field, and must pass a series of three examinations. The essay exams, administered once a year for 3 years, cover subjects such as accounting, economics, securities analysis, asset valuation, and portfolio management.
Median annual earnings of financial analysts were $57,100 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $43,660 and $76,620. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,570, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $108,060. Median annual earnings of personal financial advisor's were $56,680 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,180 and $100,540.
Many financial analysts receive a bonus in addition to their salary, and the bonus can add substantially to their earnings. Usually, the bonus is based on how well their predictions compare to the actual performance of a benchmark investment. Personal financial advisor's who work for financial services firms are generally paid a salary plus bonus. Advisor's who work for financial-planning firms or who are self-employed either charge hourly fees for their services or charge one set fee for a comprehensive plan, based on its complexity. Advisor's who manage a client’s assets usually charge a percentage of those assets. A majority of advisor's receive commissions for financial products they sell, in addition to charging a fee.
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