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Financial researchers, often called analysts, perform a crucial role in the buying and selling of both equities and debt products. Their role is to research particular companies in particular sectors and to issue reports giving buy, hold or sell recommendations.
Sell Side Analysts
A typical sell side research analyst will be employed by a brokerage. The analyst will follow 10-12 companies in-depth, usually specialising in just one or two industry sectors. Sell side analysts produce regular, extensive reports, in a time consuming process which involves a great deal of communication with the followed companies.
Buy Side Analysts
A buy side analyst might be employed by a mutual or pension fund. Their role is similar, but the reports produced are much briefer, at perhaps just a couple of pages. The reports are used by the fund managers as the basis of their investment decisions. Buy side analysts typically follow 30-40 companies across a wider range of industry sectors than a sell side analyst.
Objectivity of analyst reports has been a big issue in the financial world for some time now, and this has led to the rise of 'Indies' - firms who produce unbiased, transparent research. A career within an indie analyst firm can be a good spot for an analyst who wants to make a name for him or herself quickly.
Some firms recruit analysts at graduate level, looking for a good degree in economics, business or finance. MBA candidates are more common, however, and the bar keeps rising.
Good analytical skills are clearly essential, but a good analyst must also have a genuine interest in economics and a willingness to follow news and current events. An eye for detail helps, and excellent communication skills are a must.
Analysts can usually progress to senior analyst level within 3-5 years, and from there to portfolio manager. Many choose to make a sideways move to become an investment analyst or financial consultant. Analyst careers can be found around the financial globe, but some of the most sought after are in financial centres such as London, New York or Singapore.
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