Market analysis: A finance job without all the chaos

A fun, well-paid, and fairly stable way to work in the City and beyond
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The Independent Online

If you are interested in the financial leviathan without the thrills and spills, market analysis could be for you.

Market analysts are a breed apart in the City and beyond – somewhere between the super geeks in quants developing market algorithms on the one hand, and the masters of the universe in fund management on the other. For the more thoughtful graduate, market analysis can provide a perfect match of curiosity and remuneration.

Most analysts do go into the City, where they work for one of the big investment or retail banks. The job involves profiling companies for fund managers, assessing whether stocks are over- or undervalued. Like many City jobs, the best way in is via internship, a stint of unpaid or lowly paid labour that will give you a chance to show your mettle, initiative and intelligence.

As you would expect, work kicks off early, at 7.30am, with a review of company news, though this is less stressful than you might imagine. Analysts are given time to review companies for fund managers; their reports are crucial in guiding fund managers' hands.

"You can look at some really interesting industries, and you do get a fair amount of time to look at them," says Amanda Purton, head of equity research at Barclays. "The best bit is when you get a really good return."

The first thing that Purton looks for in applicants is a curiosity about what makes a good business, and how it interacts with market models – both basic profit and loss, as well as more complex, quantitative market algorithms.

Purton studied business at South Bank University, but says Barclays welcomes good graduates from any field. Technical knowledge, through the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification – roughly 600 hours of study – should be supported by your employer, as it is at Barclays.

Beyond the City giants, there are also jobs to be had in analyst houses, which offer strategic advice to clients rather than to fund managers.

"I came out of university not really having a clear idea of what to do," says Annabel Gorringe, who four years ago joined Datamonitor, an independent market analysis firm, as one of the firm's 400 analysts. The big appeal of market analysis for Gorringe was the chance to do the research she came to love studying economics at University College London, while earning a good salary. "The skills are similar," she says. "Research skills, attention to detail."

Gorringe chose an analyst house, rather than the City, because you are not just looking at market performance but company performance, and how it can be improved. "The most satisfying part of it is the client contact," says Gorringe. "Knowing that your opinion is helping to form strategies for international players."

As in the banks, analysts at independent firms specialise in particular areas. Datamonitor looks at six industries, and Gorringe specialises in financial services, in particular life and pensions. You soon become an expert. "You hit the ground running," she says. "You build up experience and soon you're interviewing chief executives of international firms."

While analyst houses are more analysis- and less market-focused than the City, it is also possible to go the other way. Financial bookmakers offer analysts a taste of the sharp end of the markets, monitoring the business risk exposure on the book minute by minute, and being responsible for hedging risk by investments or changing the odds offered.

It is heavily quantitative work, with employers looking less for financial knowledge and more for maths savvy. "We look at the maths behind risk," explains Ryan Kneale, a market analyst at Betsfortraders.com, a fixed-odds financial bookmaker. "It's all about probabilities." Kneale is responsible for hedging against risk on scenarios with more than a 95 per cent probability.

He graduated in biology from Leicester University and worked at HSBC and Lloyds TSB, but when he applied for his job he found employers were less interested in his background than his pure maths ability. "There were a lot of maths tests," he says. And the tests well worth swotting for.

"It's exciting, dynamic, and meritocratic," says Kneale. "And, most of all, there's the money."

Facts and figures

What qualifications do I need?

A good degree (2:1 and up) is usually the entry qualification. Good maths skills are a must. Most analysts will cut their teeth as interns.

How much will I earn?

Basic salaries are just that, basic, starting at £20,000. But the potential for bonuses is greater; some analysts earn six figures this way. Outside the City, earnings over £100,000 are rarer.

Where will I work?

The big banks are major employers, as are analyst houses that advise clients. There are also a fair number of jobs available at financial bookmakers.

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