Q&A with a Top-Ranked BofA Merrill Lynch Research Analyst

by Vault Careers | August 22, 2016

  • My Vault

Timna Tanners ranked No. 1 in the Institutional Investor All-America Research Poll in 2015, 2014, and 2013. Tanners is a research analyst in the metals and mining group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

VAULT: How long have you worked in the field? What made you want to enter this career?

TANNERS: I have done equity research since August 2002, after graduating from The Anderson School at UCLA and moving to New York. I was an associate analyst for two years under three different senior analysts before getting my own coverage. I got a few names at first and gradually built up coverage of stocks to 20 today in the broader U.S. metals and mining space.

I originally wanted to be a journalist, after I got over wanting to be a ballerina as a young girl. After I worked as a wire reporter for more than five years, I realized I could use my writing and analysis skills while getting to develop my own opinions if I switched to equity research. It was particularly as I covered OPEC and oil that I got frustrated having to ask economists and research analysts for their quotes, when I could have concluded on my own that cutting production would help tighten the market and raise oil prices. I found being a research analyst paired my affinity for communication with analysis and finance.

VAULTIn a few sentences, can you describe what you do for your job?

TANNERS: My job is to recommend what action investors should take on different stocks in the metals and mining space, in addition to being somewhat of an expert on the companies and the industry. I speak to investors on our views, but also the traders, salespeople, and, through a chaperone, our bankers. We write regular notes on different topics, and travel to see investors and attend company meetings and industry conferences.

VAULT: What are some of the pros and cons of your job?

TANNERS: My favorite part of the job is that I am rarely bored, and I get to speak with intelligent, thoughtful people regularly. I enjoy being a sort of expert in what I do, and I enjoy communicating an opinion or a perspective that the investor may not have contemplated. The longer I have this role, the easier it is to see trends and patterns and anticipate cycles in commodities. On the negative side, when a stock call moves against you it is very public and obvious to colleagues and clients. Sure it’s a fact of life that we make the wrong call occasionally, but in this job your record is constantly on display and can be tracked. When wrong, I think it is important to be gracious and aim to learn from it.

VAULT: What are the most important personal and professional qualities for people in your career?

TANNERS: Increasingly good communication and interpersonal skills are critical. It’s taken for granted that you know your way around financial statements and can handle basic accounting, but if you can’t communicate your views to clients and be likeable, even the greatest financial genius won’t get very far. I think a critical, questioning, analytical mind is key, as it’s natural for companies to create their best impression for the public, but the analyst should be able to discern his or her own separate views from the company’s spin. It’s helpful to not only be sure not to parrot the company’s voice, but to take risks with ratings and opinions in general. Stocks go up and down, and while you can avoid conflict by having a “buy” rating, it is often not the right call. It’s also important to not be wedded to a view, which is much easier said than done.

VAULT: Any special advice for young women who are considering a career in the investment banking industry?

TANNERS: I honestly think the best advice I have for women goes for anyone looking to get into this role, and that is “think big.” So don’t dwell on your gender holding you back, but instead focus on what you want to accomplish and work toward it. I work in a hugely male-dominated industry, whether it be working for a large bank or being the rare woman in meetings at metals and mining industry events. I embrace being one of few women wherever I go and don’t let it distract or bother me. When I say “think big,” the best example comes from when I was launching a survey of steel buyers and thinking I would poll maybe five to 10 of them. My boss at the time told me to send the survey to a larger group, so instead I sent it to 1,000 or so buyers and received nearly 100 responses.

VAULT: What has been one (or more) of the most-rewarding experiences during your career, and why?

TANNERS: There have been so many positives over the years, whether it be an award or achievement or seeing my associates do well in their careers. I also am pleased when calls work well, especially when it’s a difficult one. It’s hard to be right when you’re negative on a stock and you end up having to drop coverage because the market cap gets too low. But I feel rewarded that I’ve steered investors clear of bad choices just as much as happy that I’ve given good advice on stocks that have risen in value.

This post was adapted from the new Vault Career Guide to Investment Banking.

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Filed Under: Finance | Job Search | Networking | Workplace Issues

Tags: bank of america | bank of america merrill lynch | investment banking | research analyst | women on wall street

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