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Investment Analyst Role


widenthemoat
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Hi All,

 

I currently live and work in the Boston area and wanted to see if the board could give me some advice on the best way to land an investment research analyst role. I became hooked on investing about six years ago and have spent a significant amount of my personal time over the years devouring as much information as possible on the subject. Based on what I have learned, I truly believe I could add a lot of value to an investment firm. The only problem is, none of this can be put on my resume - it has all been on my own time. Just as a little background, I am a CFA charterholder and have been a consultant doing independent business valuations for the past three years. I ideally would like to work at a small firm which follows a value-based approach. Any insight would be much appreciated.

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The fact that you are a CFA charter holder is not insignificant.  If nothing else, earning that credential tells the prospective employer than you are motivated enough and intelligent enough to pass 3 tests that require significant effort. 

 

Here’s my 2c, based on 20+ years in the industry.

 

Write a couple of research reports.  This will enable you to DEMONSTRATE the value-add that you believe you can provide.  A good interviewer will not be looking for stock tips, but rather insight into how you think, how you formulate an investment thesis and support it with analysis (both quantitative and qualitative).

 

Even if you do a great job at the above, it will be tough to land an analyst role at a quality firm.  For this reason, I believe you should be willing to accept a “research assistant” or “research associate” role.  Getting your foot in the door is the key; if you deserve to be an analyst you will eventually be promoted to analyst. 

 

An MBA helps—especially on the sell-side—but is not always a requirement.  Look at it from the perspective of the employer:  hiring an MBA reduces their odds that they’ve mistakenly hired a dunce (or at least gives them cover for having done so).  It’s about risk aversion.  This is another reason that, IMO,  it’s better to come in at a junior level and prove yourself on the job….you can get paid for learning on the job and possibly avoid the expense/time of pursuing an MBA degree. 

 

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Probably not what you want to hear .... but just do an MBA and by-pass the investment industry entirely.

Go the corporate finance route instead, and aim at the Treasurer/CFO positions in the Fortune 500 to Fortune 1500. You already have the CFA.

 

Count how many 'old' people you see in a GS/MS/etc. Estimate their 'average' age and deduct your age.

That's how long you can expect to remain in the industry - IF everything works out. Still seem worth it ??

 

GS/MS/etc. is just the match-maker between investor and business (corporate finance dept).

The GS/MS 'old' folks move to corporate finance, and without them (as alumni) GS/MS would do a lot less business; so why not just go to corporate finance directly. You will be doing much the same thing.

 

SD

     

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If you are really hungry and creative you can get into the industry.  I would highly recommend doing research reports.  A hundred people seem to want to get in but not many actually are willing to the hard work to get in. 

Ideas are the currency of the industry so a great idea is worth a lot and high quality analysis that has insights can be rare.

 

Also - take risks.  Snail mail portfolio managers your ideas, call them, do other stuff to get your name out there - perhaps send your resume and idea on a pizza box.  Network.  These are all essentially no risk ideas that some people never do because of fear.  But there is really no downside.    I and a few others I know got jobs this way.

It not easy, expect a lot of rejections, but you will also learn a ton along the way. 

 

 

 

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Hi - I agree with what the others wrote, you need work samples to validate your thought process and investing style.  While the odds are against you, it can be done.  You need to differentiate yourself (work sample or samples, cover letter and passion for investing).  If you’re sincerely committed, this will not be difficult.  Networking is tough and most PMs outside your alumni network aren’t interested in mentoring..  note I said most***

 

I recently broke in after 5.5 years (I started trying when I started the CFA).  Like yourself, I am a CFA charterholder.  There were a few other things in my favor, however I secured the gig through the CFA career website (in a very competitive city).  Send me a pm if you would like to talk on the phone.

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I've met a few analysts who got their roles directly from non-traditional backgrounds, so it's definitely possible. Probably the most important traits for an analyst are passion, brains, and investment skills. Degrees, Wall Street experience, CFAs, and MBAs can be decent proxies for those traits, but you'll have to prove you have those traits despite them (having your CFA is a big plus though). Those few analysts I've met that have succeeded all reached out directly to money managers and included one or two of their own investment write-ups. There's hardly a better way to get others to understand how you look at investments than to get them to read write-ups you've done. Good luck!

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Just to add to this ...

 

Your report is a marketing document. Show that you can write, you are not the same as everyone else, and can demonstrate the RELEVANT value proposition by the 2nd paragraph. You have to beat the guy in Asia, who also has a CFA - but costs 1/2 what you you do.

 

If you're so good why aren't you rich yet ? (& therefore talking to me).

It is really about ROI, and every salesperson has a credible story. Question is are you walking the talk, & is it clearly your best option? Hard to sell a client that your idea is the best option, if in looking at you he/she thinks that you cant even identify your own best ROI opportunity (MBA versus continued time in the industry). Prospective return over remaining runway usually being the main determinant.

 

Up and out. You have to steal someone else's lunch, and are only as good as your last idea.

Analysts are inventory, and all else equal - LIFO will prevail. The cuts will also be driven primarily by market level; so great ideas in a falling market aren't going to help you. Conversely in strong winds - even the worst analyst is going to get employed, and on very little 'effort'.

 

So what? It really comes down to market forecast (timing).

If you think the winds are strengthening it might be worth continuing, if not ..... it's a different calculation.

 

Best of luck.

 

SD

 

 

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I second people's suggestion that you should write up your best ideas and share it with people.  This process is difficult but certainly doable.  My suggestions are:

 

1) Don't do a MBA because it cost a lot of money and it is more to train people for traditional roles

2) If you are young (younger than 35) and do not have a ton of debt or dependents and you are willing to live frugally for a while, you have lots of options

3) I would recommend that you go to some combination of Daily Journal, Berkshire Hathaway, Fairfax, Leucadia, shareholder meetings etc

4) Have 2-4 ideas that are your highest conviction and well research.  Even better if you have at least 20-30% of your networth invested in them. 

5) Tell people about them in your conversation during these meetings.  Like someone else said earlier, good investment ideas are like currency in this business.  What it also does is create conversation rather than filler material like "how are you? What's the weather like?"  If you can say "X is a good investment, trades at 5x EBITDA for a 10x business, the market cap is 1.5x of EBITDA, natural deleveraging, good CEO, and will be a 3-5  bagger if held for 5 years.  Here is the reason why the market is missing the data point.  Complete turnover of investor base. etc"  The latter is a much more interesting conversation.  Make sure you cover the important stuff such as "why is it cheap, what's the rest of the market missing, is it hidden?  Wrong investor base?" 

5b) It's harder to pitch ideas like Apple, JPM, etc.  I think $100mm to $5bn companies are targets where you can actually demonstrate skills. 

6) Figure out who you really admire and reach out to them 

6b) Go to value investing meetups in Boston and keep in touch with people

7) Keep re-iterating 3-7 and you will likely land something soon

 

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Not in the industry and have no degree or cfa (best described as an investment enthusiast) but my opinion (if it is worth anything)...

 

You appear to tick the qualification box so any application you make won't be thrown in the bin immediately. You're a feasible hire.

 

I would be sceptical as to whether any reports you write would get read (Who is this guy sending me this stuff and do i have the time to read it?).  Without some form of personal connection to the recipient i wouldn't rate the chances. But I'm an industry outsider in the UK so it may be different over here.

 

Make connections. Maybe there are some connected individuals on this forum that would be willing to read a report and put it in front of their team / boss?

 

It's who you know not what you know (cringe). Didn't ackman hire a taxi driver? I think it's  your best shot. Hit the road and meet as many people as you can. Network. Attend events. Go to a hiring event and meet HR face to face. Face to face works best for me as I can sell myself properly, make a connection and prove I'm a legitimate human being.

 

Go entry level. May be a bitter pill to swallow but a 6 month stint could be all it takes to network and get a shot at your dream job.

 

Raise you're profile. Get an online presence and use social media the best you can. Publish your report on your website. Demonstrate your ability.

 

All of this "advice" applies to all jobs really.

And I'm not trying to patronize you, I hope it doesn't come off like that.

 

If i was in your shoes with the knowledge but without demonstrable industry experience, the above is how I'd  do it.

 

I hope you get your break.

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