As the name suggests, analytical skills are very important when you are a financial analyst. But apart from this, there are multiple other attributes that an employer seeks in a Financial Analyst. So, here are nine of the most important financial analyst skills that you need to have and while reading you can check how many of these skills do you possess.
Research is the most important part of an Analyst’s day to day job. This is because unless the correct data is mined by using proper research skills there will be no scope for analysis. So, this skill requires precise understanding of the problem or scenario, followed by listing down of all the required questions and lastly finding out the answers. As such, one has to be alert and resourceful to have good research skills. For arriving at solution for the client’s financial profiles the analysts then have to put on their researching hat, compile details and come up with an approach to reach the solution.
Let me introduce you all to my friend Priya who is a financial analyst. Priya wants to calculate the valuation for a private company for her client. She used her research skills to identify public companies across the globe that would match the sector of her company. After identifying the peers, she then tried to gain more insights on their business model and the growth rate of the country in which they operate. By identifying this, she then assigned proper weightage to all the peers and came down to a valuation number that seem fairly correct.
Analytical skills mean the demonstration of logical thinking, gathering of a variety of data and looking at them in different possible ways. However, analytical skills cannot be learned by reading books but has to be acquired through experience and a solid foundation. Analysts are also expected to be good with databases and excel. These tools help in analyzing the data, comparing data and making presentations to the clients. Pivot tables, different types of graphs and excel formulas can all be used to analyze the data.
For instance, my friend Priya has looked at a number of companies at once and compare their results. As such, it is quintessential that she is able to use excel for calculating a formula in one go rather than doing it manually. Further, she also uses another fascinating feature of MS excel, the pivot table, which she uses to segregate and present data in a simple and convenient manner.
EASE WITH TECHNOLOGY
For a financial analyst, technical skills are becoming increasingly necessary. Many firms are looking at candidates who have strong Structured Query Language (SQL) knowledge. Knowing these languages helps in managing a large amount of data with ease. However, the need is not just limited to SQL but there are several other computer languages, such as Python, SAS, and R. Further, proficiency in MS Excel and MS PowerPoint is a must. This not only helps to manage the data but also helps in navigating company databases and other software applications.
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Nowadays, companies use MS Excel only for valuing equities while for other complex securities such as credit default swaps and other fixed-income instruments are valued using customized analytical tools. It will be a very difficult task to carry out such complex calculation using excel as they involve a large amount of data.
COMMUNICATION AND WRITING SKILLS
For financial analysts, good written and oral skills are important while it is equally important to be able to communicate complex financial jargons in simple words. In fact, analysts also have to represent their firm in front of the clients and as such, they have to be confident about their speaking and writing skills. These skills are also important because you have to literally wean information out from your client efficiently and effectively.
Continuing with Priya, now she has to present her findings in front of her clients. She confidently presented her findings to the client by providing a well-written document that clearly stated her approach. The client also appreciated her works based on her findings and approved it. Priya has strong communication and writing skills that support her research skill which resulted in a very smooth and excellent presentation.
The job of a financial analyst is mainly focused on number-crunching; however, the level of complexity depends on the type of jobs. As such, they should not be intimated by numbers. For example, analysts in the equity research department need this quality when they have to value companies by using various different methods like DCF and market comparables, etc. In fact, there are financial analysts known as fixed-income analysts who deal with valuing complex asset class like credit default swaps (CDS) that involve complex formulas and maths. Valuing options and forwards are known as ‘quant’ jobs which are much more complex.
An analyst will eventually need to take up responsibility as a lead for a team of analysts and this requires leadership skills. It is not just about leading a team but also mentoring junior analysts and create a friendly and collaborative atmosphere that will build successful teams. Even the entry-level analyst requires these skills of leadership. This is because project management is required at every step of the job, also effective communication, teamwork requires having strong leadership skills. Only those who are self-driven and who can motivate others to move in the right direction will be able to survive and succeed. Also, leadership experience in the resume gives any candidate an edge over others.
The finance industry is continuously evolving which means that the financial analysts also have to keep up with the pace and be well informed all the time. A good financial analyst should be able to make a sound decision on the spot so that his/ her client is always ahead. He/ She should be able to tackle complex problems as and when they arise. Decision-making skills may include finding the right companies for a merger, understanding the complications of a complex business model, figuring out a tax dilemma, etc. Having a record of making good decisions can help your career to grow at a faster pace. Employers rely on candidates who can pull off wonders in difficult times. A top candidate takes action and finds the right solution regardless of how bad the situation is. This is however very difficult to judge in the hiring process.
For instance, Priya was asked by one of her clients to help them out with a tax dilemma that their company was facing and asked if she could provide them with an update in the next few hours. Priya realized that it would take her too long if she had to do it by herself. She then decided to quickly take out similar cases from the past and then consulted a senior tax specialist in her organization and provided the client with a solution. Priya’s quick thinking and decision making skills helped her in providing the client with the desired results and also meet the deadline.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Building financial models is a very crucial task and any silly mistake, such as a depreciation number wrongly typed as $585 in place of $858, will lead to a completely different answer. A change of one percent in the growth rate or in the discounted cash flow (DCF) model can lead to a complete change in the valuations. Any small error in gathering the data or analyzing the trends can lead to a significant change in conclusions.
In fact, attention to detail is not just limited to numbers but also related to format and writing style. This is especially important for investment banking clients who are very specific about the kind of format they want. As such, Investment banking analyst’s format of the presentation is very important and each deck for a particular client should have the same format.
LOOKING FORWARD TO FUTURE
A financial analyst is required to build good relationships with clients as well as supervisors. This is how you will work and also get promoted. Don’t ever go for shortcuts and overlook the value of hard work. If possible, sign up for extra activities in the office and spend time outside building relationships.
Because of her skills and promptness, Priya has managed to maintain a good rapport with her clients. In fact, one of her clients was so happy with her work that he endorsed her strongly and based on his feedback she got her promotion and raise at a relatively early stage.
Do you have what it takes to be a successful financial analyst and are you able to tick all the boxes for a successful career in finance? It is important to understand that very few individuals can showcase all these qualities. However, having only a few can also make you a quality hire. All these qualities go hand in hand and the possession of one attribute opens the door to another. Some of these skills can be learned in theory or by studying economics or finance, while the remaining ones will come with experience and hard work.
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