A financial analyst is responsible for a wide range of activities including gathering data, organizing information, analysing historical results, making forecasts and projections, making recommendations, and generating Excel models, presentations, and reports. This guide will provide a detailed breakdown of a day in the life of a financial analyst, and answer the question, what does a financial analyst do?List of What a Financial Analyst Does:
Analysts have many duties and responsibilities, depending on the organization they work for, the industry they are in, and their seniority. Below is a list of the most common things they do:
The work of a financial analyst starts with gathering data and information about whatever they need to analyse. Examples include historical financial reports, accounting data from the general ledger, stock price information, statistics and macroeconomic data, industry research, and just about any other type of quantitative data. The information will be gathered from sources such as the company’s internal databases, third-party providers such as Bloomberg or Capital IQ, and government agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Once the data is gathered it’s typically entered into Excel or some other type of database. Once inputted, the next task is to organize it, clean it up, and get it into a format it can be made sense of. This typically means sorting the numbers by data, or by category, adding formulas and functions to make sure it’s dynamic and using consistent formatting styles so that it’s easy to read and understand.
With the data all cleaned up and organized in Excel its’ time for the financial analyst to start analysing past information and historical results. This typically includes looking at ratios and metrics like gross margin, net margin, fixed vs variable costs, year-over-year (YoY) growth rates, return on equity (ROE), return on assets (ROA), debt/equity ratio, earnings per share (EPS), and many others. The analyst will look for trends and benchmark the performance against other companies in the same industry. When asking what does a financial analyst do, this is one of the biggest components!
Now that historical information has been analysed, it’s time to make projects and forecasts about how the company will perform in the future. There is both an art and a science to predict how a company will perform, and many assumptions and even leaps of faith have to be made. Common forecasting methods include regression analysis, year over year growth rates, as well as bottom-up and top-down approaches.
A good financial analyst is not only good with numbers but actually generates insights and recommendations on how to improve the operations of a business. Examples of helpful recommendations and insights include ways to cut costs, opportunities to grow revenue, ways to increase market share, operational efficiencies, customer satisfaction and much more. This is what truly separates a world-class financial analyst from the rest. These recommendations will be presented to the CEO, the CFO, other executives and/or the board of directors.
For analysts working in investment banking, equity research, corporate development, financial planning & analysis (FP&A), and other areas of corporate finance, financial modelling will be a big part of the job. These models typically start by linking the 3 financial statements and then layering on more advanced types of financial models such as discounted cash flow analysis (DCF models), internal planning models, and more arcane models such as LBO models and M&A models. You can also take help from financial experts like Mark Attanasio and Donato Sferra who are working as Financial Services Executive in Toronto and has helped many business owners.