Among the more rigorous, yet rewarding, career options in the financial services industry is that of a financial analyst. But what, exactly, does a financial analyst do on a daily basis? The answer to that question is largely dependent upon an analyst's level of experience.
- Financial analysts can work long hours, generally either working on updating research and financial models or networking.
- Junior financial analysts generally have less than three years of experience and spend much of their time putting together information and updating financial models.
- Senior analysts, those with three or more years of experience, tend to spend much of their time reviewing work, developing investment opinions, and networking with clients.
- The ebb and flow of an analyst's daily activities depend upon factors such as the earnings calendar, the senior analyst's marketing calendar, and whether or not there are research projects in progress.
While younger analysts tend to do a lot of data gathering, financial modeling, and spreadsheet maintenance, more senior analysts tend to spend time on developing investment theses, speaking with company management teams and other investors, and marketing ideas (if they are on the sell-side). Let's take a closer look at a day in the life of a junior and senior financial analyst.
Junior Analyst: 0-3 Years of Experience
During the first few years of a financial analyst's career, they can expect to spend the majority of their time gathering relevant data, updating comparison spreadsheets and financial models, and reading the relevant news and industry publications. The goal of these activities is to develop a solid fundamental understanding of a particular business, sector, or industry.
Additionally, many younger analysts allocate a portion of their time towards studying for professional and licensing exams, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams, and Series 7 and Series 63 licenses. While position titles vary across firms, the title "junior analyst" is generally used to describe a financial analyst who has less than three years of experience.
Senior Analyst: 3+ Years of Experience
Once a junior analyst achieves a certain level of industry expertise and develops a reasonably strong network of contacts, their professional responsibilities evolve into using data to develop an investment opinion. Additionally, a senior analyst spends quite a bit of time developing relationships with industry and company contacts, and marketing the team's work. Mentorship is also an important component of a senior analyst's day-to-day responsibilities.
Despite the differences in a junior and senior analyst's professional responsibilities, there are similarities in the flows of their day. Here, we present you with a day in the life of a financial analyst.
A Day in the Life of a Financial Analyst
5:30 a.m.—Check relevant news
Junior and Senior Analyst: Check the news to see if there have been any overnight news releases related to the team's coverage universe, or if there have been any market-moving events.
6:00 a.m.—Put out fires
Junior Analyst: If there is relevant news on the tape, a junior analyst would normally alert the senior analyst in addition to updating relevant data files and spreadsheets.
Senior Analyst: If there is news on the tape, the senior analyst determines whether or not it affects the analyst's investment opinions, and how much action should be taken with this news. If there is no news on the tape, the senior analyst's morning may involve speaking at the firm's morning meeting or meeting with institutional clients or members of a company's management team.
7:00 a.m.—Morning meetings
Junior Analyst: Many sell-side and buy-side operations facilitate an internal daily morning meeting wherein the key takeaways of analysts' research are discussed. Junior analysts are typically encouraged to attend this meeting as it broadens their knowledge base, among other benefits.
Senior Analyst: If a senior analyst is presenting an investment idea to the firm, the analyst might do so during the firm's morning meeting. Alternatively, the senior analyst might meet with clients or company management.
Junior and Senior Analyst: Regular contact with other team members throughout the firm ensures that an analyst's ideas are well known and understood. From 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. it can be a mix of marketing, making connections, updating research, and working on long-term projects, among other things.
Junior and Senior Analyst: Participate in a team meeting with team members.
10:00 a.m.—Updates, calls
Junior Analyst: Update marketing slide deck in advance of senior analyst's marketing trip. Deliver deck to other team members for review.
Senior Analyst: Conference call with the company management team to clarify some points regarding the company's business model and to schedule an investor visit to a distribution center. Attend the internal meeting. Review logistics for a non-deal roadshow.
Junior Analyst: Meet with a mentor over lunch.
Senior Analyst: Lunch with industry contact(s).
1:30 p.m.—Research, review
Junior Analyst: Prepare a research note template in advance of the earnings release.
The rise of powerful technology firms since the mid-2000s, such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, has resulted in a large percentage of young talent choosing technology companies over finance.
Senior Analyst: Review the junior analyst's work and offer constructive feedback.
2:30 p.m.—More updates, calls
Junior Analyst: Make recommended changes to the marketing slide deck.
Senior Analyst: Call clients with the latest investment ideas.
3:30 p.m.—Reviews, calls
Junior Analyst: Review conference call transcripts and earnings releases from the prior quarter in advance of the earnings release.
Senior Analyst: Continue to call clients; check in with the trading desk regarding unusually high trading volume in a particular stock.
5:00 p.m.—Updates, reviews
Junior Analyst: An earnings report is released; thus, the junior analyst must update the team's financial model and research note template using data from the earnings release. Then the junior analyst must prepare questions for the company's management team. Any salient points contained within the press release should be flagged to the senior analyst and team.
Senior Analyst: Review earnings report in search of any important points. Contact the management team to clarify any questions. Determine the effect of the earnings release on the analyst's investment opinion.
8:00 p.m.—More updates, reviews
Junior Analyst: Submit the updated research note and financial model to the senior analyst for review. Make changes as needed.
Senior Analyst: Review research notes and models. Make nuanced changes as required.
9:00 p.m.—Finalize work
Junior Analyst: Submit the edited and approved research note to supervisory analysts for approval.
Senior Analyst: Develop talking points for tomorrow's morning meeting. Review client call lists as calls will need to be made early in the morning.
10:30 p.m.—Note, publication and distribution
Junior Analyst: Note is published. Make preparations for a senior analyst to speak during the next day's morning meeting.
Senior Analyst: As soon as the note is published, prepare a voice mail blast for distribution to certain clients.
11:00 p.m.—Lights Out
End of the day.
What Does a Financial Analyst Do?
Financial analysts work in financial institutions, such as banks, insurance companies, and investment funds. "Financial analyst" is a broad term that can include a variety of specific roles in finance. In general, financial analysts analyze the financial statements of companies to determine good investments, they analyze stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments. Financial analysts help determine the value of mergers and acquisitions. They study economic data, the financial markets, and recommend investments. Financial analysts spend time forecasting investment returns through various modeling techniques and assessing the risk of investments.
What Are the Main Skills a Financial Analyst Should Have?
Financial analysts should have critical thinking skills, presentation skills, analytical skills, modeling skills, an understanding of finance, economics, and the financial markets, and be personable.
How Much Do Financial Analysts Make?
The salaries of financial analysts will differ depending on the specific company and job as well as the level of the financial analyst. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a financial analyst is $83,660 a year as of 2020 (the latest data available).
The Bottom Line
The ebb and flow of an analyst's daily activities depend upon factors such as the earnings calendar, the senior analyst's marketing calendar, and whether or not there are research projects in progress. Generally speaking, a day in the life of a junior or senior analyst can be very labor-intensive. Nevertheless, the payoff is a challenging and (potentially) financially rewarding career.