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What is a day of a financial analyst like?

I'm an incoming freshman and I'm interested in the Finance field. A financial analyst seems like a fun job. However, it also seems like a very stressful and requires working overtime. What is your experience as a financial analyst? What are the pros and cons? Thanks! #finance #financialanalyst

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Maximo’s Answer

A Finance Analyst can take on a wide variety of roles depending on the industry and your role. The clearest split is between working in Financial Services like Banking or Equity Research or working in Corporate Finance for a company whose focus is selling a product or service outside of Finance. Typically you will find a heavier workload in Financial Services jobs, especially in Banking, while many Corporate Finance jobs will follow the typical 9-5.

Corporate Finance has a huge number of jobs to be done that vary in working style and skills all with the same goal: ensure that money is received, distributed, and spent in a timely and predictable manner so that the business can focus on its core operations.

On a daily basis there will typically be a series of recurring tasks like organizing the latest data for a report and sending to relevant people in the company, or fielding questions about reports you own. This is especially true when the business is trying to close the books around the end of their fiscal quarters or year. On top of your daily work there will likely be a project or two to improve a current process or solve a new problem. It will involve talking to people, using data processing like excel or PowerBI, and presenting it via a dashboard or presentation.
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Margaret’s Answer

I'm excited to answer this question because I am a financial analyst and LOVE it! There are so many different sub fields one can go into as a financial analyst and one person's day in one sub field could be completely opposite of someone in a different sub field. For me, I work normal banker's hours (9 AM- 5 AM) with an hour for lunch each day. In regards to workload, it really depends on what is going on that day with my team and the bank as a whole. It is never overwhelming, there is no overtime, and the work itself is really enjoyable. I wake up each morning excited to go to work because I love my place of employment, position, and workload. That being said, this applies to the sub field I am personally in and may not apply to the rest.
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Daryl’s Answer

Hi Gianna,

As somewhat mentioned in other answers there are a lot of different places financial analysts can be employed. You could support the finance department of an operating company, you could join a consultancy, or you could go work in the finance industry (as a non exhaustive list of examples)

I notice you are in New Jersey, so you may be considering a wall street type financial analyst position. If that is the case the best resource I've found to help understand what wall street is like for college interns and recent graduates is the book "Young Money" by Kevin Roose. In the book Roose follows several young wall street employees and documents their experience including the pros and cons. It was written a couple years ago now so I'm sure some things will have changed, but I would still recommend it as a resource.

-Daryl
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Hristo’s Answer

Hi Gianna,

I worked as a financial analyst for almost four years in Corporate finance division of a large IT company.

In my case I have been assigned to the “cost side” which means I was making sure that costs are valid when they come to us and then are properly allocated to cost pools and accounts. You can be on the “revenue side” where you need to make sure the invoices to the customer are correct and timely managed.

The cadence in the financial industry is usually monthly and quarterly. During the month and the respective closing period, your workload would intensify as some of the costs start to arrive or you need to book the invoices in the ledger. But as this is an internal rather an official closing period, the workload is moderate.

On quarterly close the workload would increase significantly as you need to close the accounting books for that financial period. It is quite common the workday to be longer than usual and even stress can increase.

Your main responsibilities as a financial analyst would be around the following activities:

- Forecasting – estimate what would be the cost or revenue your company can expect for the next quarter. This would need to be justified in front of your CFO and communicated to other counterparties.

- Analysis – provide some analysis of the dynamics of the numbers (why they are higher or lower compared to the previous period) and if you are really proactive seek opportunities to improve the financial picture (seek costs out or investigate opportunities for higher revenue)


- Reporting – when the monthly or quarterly close period starts, you will need to report changes in your forecast daily. This should continue for a week of two until the accounting books are finalized.

The workload varies but most of the time you will be dealing with numbers, financial documents and hanging on calls explaining the numbers to various stakeholders and counterparties.
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Tina’s Answer

Welcome to the world of finance. I am working in the field of finance from last 10 years and I must say I really enjoy being here. You can get immense knowledge and keep growing . It also depends on being in the correct departments of your interest in finance else you can feel monotony in the work. There are lots of departments or streams as we call it like pricing, treasury, financial planning and analysis , payroll ,AR, AP , analytics etc and starting with the stream of your interest would keep you engaged.

My typical day would have creating review reports, talking to my stake holders, having team meeting for some brainstorming for the process improvements, creating dashboards, forecasting and budgeting, planning for the month end etc.
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Henry’s Answer

Hello Gianna, an analyst's day can be quite interesting indeed. In today's business world, analysts are expected to provide insights driven by data and they are expected to provide recommendation to improve the business as oppose to be a machine simply generating financial reports.

So if you like to solving business problems, building a critical thinking mind and working with different people in different function, this is a job for you. It is not a secret that any good financial analyst is usually very sensitive to numbers but what makes an even better financial analyst is the ability to translate numbers into insights or an important message for those who are less sensitive to numbers. You can almost see this as a job to decode secret messages.

All jobs have regular deliverable that are routine which require exceptional accuracy and must be completed on a timely basis. Financial analysts are no exception as they do have monthly, quarterly and annual report to produce. The key to these regular reporting which typically provide rear mirror view is to understand why something happened and turn it into a forward looking view to predict what will happen. Of course, this would require the financial analyst to have a good understand of the company's business as well as the industry trend overall. Once the future is predicted, financial analyst's role is to communicate this future and work with other parts of the business to further improve the future. In my experience as an analyst, this is where all the fun begin.

Good luck on your journey in becoming a financial analyst.
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Nikki’s Answer

Great question Gianna and you are right that being a financial analyst can be both fun and stressful. I work in corporate finance and not in the investment banking field so I can only share one side of the financial analyst experience.

What I like most about being a financial analyst is the exposure to how the company operates and generates profits. You really get to understand how the company creates opportunities to generate revenue and how much it costs to fund those opportunities to hopefully create value for the company in the end.

At the same time, because financial analysts are involved in supporting leaders in critical decisions, the work can be stressful because of the potential impact of your analysis, the time sensitivity (usually requires a quick turn-around) and the expectation for accuracy and quality work. However, if you are passionate about the work that you do, good performance will come naturally.

As others have mentioned, it is very rewarding to see how your analysis and insights have played a role in how the company moves forward in the future.

Good luck and best wishes on your career journey!

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Tom’s Answer

Pros:
Creating analysis that assists with decision making is very rewarding
Partnering with non-financial functions, and helping them understand finance in a way that reduces the complexity
Seeing many aspects of business, the finance function generally is well positioned to see the big picture, and get involved with many other functions
Finance is a transferable skill, meaning if you know finance but want to change industries, your skills would generally be applicable to the new industry. This may not always be the case with functions such as engineering, marketing, etc.

Cons:
The job cycle and work hours revolve around a fiscal calendar that has a monthly and quarterly cadence. This can result in periods that are inflexible for PTO.
There are busy times which are usually predictable, but do reduce flexibility as compared to other functions (ex: quarter-end close)
The roles could have the potential to be a little less interactive than other functions such as sales, marketing, HR.
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Savita’s Answer

Hi Gianna,

I have worked for over 25 years in a little known area of Finance called Risk Management. While most people think of Insurance when Risk Management is mentioned it is only one area where Risk Management can be applied. Risk Management careers can be found in almost every Industry and involves identification , management and oversight of Risk.

My experience in Risk Management is in the Energy trading business. I started as an analyst in this field 25 years ago and am now the Global Head for Commodity Risk Management Solutions for Shell.

An analyst in my team typically spends their day reviewing and analysis of reports that show how much the company stands to lose if prices of commodities like crude oil move up or down . Equally they also look to review the financial health of other companies that we transact with and highlight any potential bankruptcy cases. All of this requires sophisticated models and systems and that is the third area that an analyst will spend their day on.

Other areas where Risk Management is applied include banking, supply chain, regulatory, human resources, operations etc.

Risk Management is currently in limelight due to COVID-19, the biggest Risk event we have ever seen.

Savita recommends the following next steps:

Explore the website of the Global Association of Risk Professionals to learn more about this niche area in Finance.
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Narina’s Answer

Financial analyst job is truly fun! Totally agree with you, Gianna! Not 1 company will most likely promise you that there will never be stress or overtime in your role. The best you can do is balance goods and bads in every situation. With financial analyst job you might have busier seasons or be more occupied during month end close. You also can get stressed with all the aspects of the business that you will be tracking and connecting questions with the right answers. It all might seem like a lot of responsibilities at times. But you balance that with typically a good compensation package and benefits. You will have a team of motivated and dedicated co-workers. You will have lots of options to grow and improve your career. And at the end of the day if you decide that financial analysis is not your cup of tea you can always pick so many different options based on your finance education and experience. I would definitely recommend analytical job if you like to be creative, ask questions, look for answers. It's lie a quest every time: to weigh in on all pros and cons and lead to the right business decision. Truly fun! Good luck to you!
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Stephen’s Answer

A financial analyst is a great job and a good way to build a lot of knowledge about how a business functions from a financial perspective.

In corporate finance, you will spend a lot of time helping your boss/bosses compile information and data in order to budget and forecast more effectively. You will learn a lot about data analytics, financial statements, excel and much more.

Every month you will spend the first week analyzing the prior month and seeing how closely you hit your targets to budget and forecast. This information greatly helps you in your upcoming forecast updates. Being able to read this data and action upon it is important and will help you develop as a finance professional.

While you will absolutely work long hours, it won't be all the time and it won't be terrible. Budget season is always tough, but you'll learn a lot through it. Any job and any career will require you to work long hours every once in a while, the key is to make sure the career you're getting into, is one you're interested in. I work long hours in finance, but I enjoy what I do and that makes it not so bad when late nights are required.

Finance is a great field of work to get into, and if you start off as a financial analyst, put in some time and find that it isn't for you. The experience and business knowledge you gain will only aid you more when you are looking for the right fit for you.
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Richard’s Answer

Pros:

High impact jobs where if you do well, it will will be recognized and rewarded.
Money: financial compensation is clearly a core motivator and it would be naive to disregard that
Optionality: you can work in many corporate settings or pivot to many different roles from banking

Cons:
Many hours staring at a screen, which can feel existentially unfulfilling and lead to burn out
May not be intellectually engaging and you might feel burnt out if you aren't passionate about the work or about the pros above
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