The Investment Research Associate

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 post-MBA position.

Investment Research Associate

This is the role for most MBAs or those with equivalent experience. Essentially, investment research associates have the same responsibilities as senior research analysts with one exception: associates are given smaller industries to follow. Typically, the industry assigned to an associate is a component of a broader sector that is already being analyzed by a senior analyst. For instance, a research associate might be assigned HMOs and work closely with the senior analyst in charge of insurance companies.

The associate analyst creates investment recommendations in the same manner as a senior analyst. In general, new associates spend several weeks familiarizing themselves with their industry by reading industry papers, journals and textbooks, and attending industry conferences. A large percentage of a research analyst's time is spent monitoring industry and company trends to predict financial results for the company. Therefore, research associates are constantly speaking with management, customers and suppliers to gauge the current status of the company they are analyzing. Armed with financial models and fundamental company analysis, they develop investment recommendations that they distribute to the firm's portfolio managers.

One of the greatest challenges for a new associate is the steepness of the learning curve. Portfolio managers don't have the patience or the luxury to allow an analyst to be uninformed or consistently incorrect. New associates work extremely hard building trust with portfolio managers.

Obviously, financial acumen and quantitative skills are a must for a research associate, but communication skills are also critical. Research associates need to be able to clearly and persuasively communicate their investment recommendations. These associates must also be able to respond to detailed inquiries from portfolio managers that challenge their ideas --which requires a strong tact and a great deal of patience. Furthermore, associates need to be energetic, diligent and intellectually curious.Research associates are usually promoted to larger industries within 2 to 4 years of joining the firm.

Uppers

  • Autonomy and creative independence
  • High level of responsibility
  • Fewer hours than the sell-side (55-75 hours/week)
  • Pays well
  • Typically a collegial environment
Downers
  • Long hours (60+ hours/week)
  • Steep learning curve
  • Always being graded on your recommendations
  • Must earn the respect of portfolio managers

Filed Under: Finance


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