Breaking into Investment Research

by Derek Loosvelt | March 31, 2009

The investment research segment is responsible for generating recommendations to portfolio managers on companies and industries that they follow. Similar to the portfolio management segment, there are three potential positions: senior research analyst, investment research associate and investment research assistant. Senior research analysts typically have 2 to 4 years of post-MBA research experience. Research associates are usually recent MBA graduates, while assistants are recent college graduates.

Let's take a look at the recent graduate position.

Investment Research Assistant

Investment research assistants work with senior research analysts to help in developing investment recommendations to portfolio managers. Recent college graduates will spend, on average, 2 to 4 years in this role before returning to business school. However, some of the most successful assistants are often promoted directly to research associate (most of these fast-trackers will have completed their CFA while working as an assistant).

The investment research assistant is responsible for helping to monitor the industry and changes within companies covered in the industry, and for updating financial models accordingly. Assistants collect data for industry data services, company conference calls and surveys. For instance, in the previous Apple Computer example, the assistant would be collecting data about consumer demand and input prices for semiconductors. Additionally, the assistant provides support to the senior analyst in the construction of recommendation reports sent out to the portfolio managers. Specifically, the assistant updates charts and modifies numerical sections of the report.

While some of the work is routine and the hours are long, assistants are sitting next to, and learning from, the intellectual capital of the firm. A good analyst will teach you the ropes, including the intangibles behind analyzing companies, financial valuation and industry knowledge.

The role of investment research assistant requires a high level of quantitative knowledge. Primarily, a basic working knowledge of accounting, financial markets, financial analysis and statistics is needed for this position. Aside from a strong quantitative background, research assistants need to be detail oriented, analytical problem solvers, diligent, and superior communicators. Generally, firms are looking for finance or accounting majors for these jobs, but engineers and science majors are also coveted for technology and health care related industries.

Uppers

  • Great quantitative experience
  • Most portfolio managers were once in research
  • Gain industry expertise
  • Pays well
  • Typically a collegial environment
Downers
  • Long hours (60+ hours/week)
  • Lots of independent time in front of the computer
  • Repetitive assignments

Filed Under: Finance


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