How do I become a…

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Although graduates often have many different career paths available, it is not always clear how to pursue them. Every issue, I will seek to explain the best way to give oneself a chance of securing a position in one of these professions. This week, my aim is to answer the question of “how do I become an investment analyst”?

Essentially, investment analysts provide information and reports to help stock market traders, stockbrokers and fund managers make decisions about potential financial opportunities. A job in this profession entails a wide range of responsibilities. Fundamentally, one must be able to appraise the viability and potential success of investments. This requires an acute ability to research thoroughly, think analytically and present confidently. Not only is this made a demanding task by its very nature, but concentration is difficult to maintain with long hours. It is common for analysts to spend more than twelve hours a day in the office. However, a key aspect of the job is meeting clients and partners as it is these relationships that maximise the effectiveness of collaborative projects.

Almost all investment analysts have a degree to justify their eligibility for such an intense career path. While most degree subjects are accepted, it is often required that the degree is of 2:1 standard or higher. This is common practice amongst competitive modern companies. When applying to certain firms, graduates in management, mathematics or economics are sometimes recognised as more suitable. The primary reason being that the new recruits have already proven their capabilities in the field and will possess relevant skills.

Training for investment analyst positions is customarily completed on the job rather than in an antecedent programme or course. Most employers expect recruits to study for professional qualification while working. Such courses frequently take place over a two to three year period as the graduate is guided through a comprehensive induction process. Subsequently, more advanced qualifications can be undertaken to build upon the foundation of knowledge and skills learned previously.

For those that survive the venture into investment appraisal, the typical job holder will receive a starting salary of anything between £22,000 and £30,000. This figure can be up to fifty percent higher if working in London or a major city. Most people will eventually fall into an upper-middle class salary bracket of between £50,000 and £70,000.

In the past, the same items seem to feature in the pros and cons list for investment analyst jobs. There are many perks that make the job an attractive one. First of all, the money is typically good and there is scope for climbing the promotional ladder. Additionally there are many empowering opportunities for workers. For example, they are regularly given responsibility early on in their career. While this could be regarded as quite daunting, it more often acts as a form of motivational stimulus. The experience gained from immediate work and the accompanying training programs also provides workers with an excellent foundation in money matters as well as exposure to some of the most interesting and dynamic financial transactions.

Some will decide to leave investment firms after acquiring all of these skills and capabilities in order to pursue opportunities in venture capital or the entrepreneurial arena. In these cases, the job provides a solid stepping stone for future employment exploits. A final addition to the list of advantages is the gain in team work skills. Working in a collaborative environment where everyone is focused and professional is rewarding, satisfying and a means for social gratification.

Unfortunately, there are also many negative sides of the job. Firstly, there is a low tolerance for errors and workers will be dismissed quite suddenly if they do not have an eye for detail. Decisions in this business can have major financial implications for the company and risk aversion is paramount. This issue coincides with the matter of working long hours. The contradictory nature of working beyond the recommended working week while paying close attention to detail can cause considerable disquiet among workers. Yet it has become accepted as part of the job at these firms and such norms often go completely unchallenged.

Another drawback of investment analytics is the monotony of tasks. The average working day consists of slaving over financial statements, creating spread sheets and preparing presentations. Particularly in the early stages, opportunities to escape the office are isolated and rare events. Also, as a counter-argument to the benefits of teamwork, the competitive nature of the industry is often represented in its workers. Individuals can be intense and profit hungry leading to the development of a high pressure environment.

So the route into a job in investment analytics is not necessarily a complex one. However, it is a time-intensive and consuming career path that poses many challenges. Yet while it is a competitive profession, it also has multiple rewards. If one does manage to rise to the top, he or she might just be retiring to Tahiti.

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