Meet the New Software Analyst

As US equity markets closed out 2013 at new highs, the future of equity research is facing significant change. With “price targets” being reset for many soaring social, cloud and big data analytics stocks let’s meet the new software analyst. But first, a little background.

Equity research has marginally evolved with investment styles and trading strategies over the past couple of decades. The days of primary fundamental research, particularly on the sell-side, faded long ago. Most analysts don’t have the gumption or the time.

Shrinking commissions and heightened regulatory scrutiny yield lower returns on investment, continuing a cycle of reducing research resources. The sell-side analyst role now has three principal components: 1) to provide access to company managements in their existing coverage universe; 2) to provide coverage for companies that are underwriting clients; and, 3) to provide “hot data points” – particularly for handicapping quarterly results. Buy-siders compete for management access and seek to combine these data points with their own findings to feed trading decisions.

Unfortunately, individual data points legally obtained and disseminated rarely move the needle in providing an adequate sample size on which to base an investment, no less a trading decision. For buy-siders, even aggregating data points from numerous analysts covering a particular sector or company does not provide a relevant statistical sample.

Limitations of today’s analytics

For example, let’s say a mid-sized publicly-traded technology company goes to market with a blend of 100 direct sales teams (one salesperson and one systems engineer per team) and 500 channel partners (mixed 75%/25% between resellers and systems integrators). Further, assume that these teams and partners are dispersed in proportion to the company’s 65%/35% sales mix between North America and international. How many salespeople and channel partners would an analyst have to survey to get an accurate picture of the company’s business in any given quarter?

If a typical sell-side analyst covers 15-20 companies (quintuple that for buy-side analysts), the multiplier effect of data points that an analyst would have to touch makes it humanly impossible to gather sufficient information. Moreover, with 50% of most tech company deals closing in the final month of a quarter, of which half often close in the final two weeks of that month, how much visibility can an analyst have?

Further, why would a company’s sales team talk to anyone from the investment community in the final weeks of a quarter when the only people they are interested in speaking with are customers who can sign a deal? Now consider that many companies throughout the supply chain have instituted strict policies in response to recent scandals to prevent any employee from having any contact with anyone from the investment community.

Even the best-resourced analysts lack the tools to correlate the data points he/she does gather to identify meaningful patterns for either an individual company or an entire sector. Finally, with shorter-term investing horizons and high-frequency trading dominating volume, how relevant are these data points anyway?

The big data approach to research

Stocks generally tend to trade on either sector momentum or overall market momentum. Macro news or events are far more likely to impact a sector’s movement, and therefore a stock’s in that sector. This includes volatility around quarterly earnings – which can run 10%-30% for technology stocks – because the majority of “beats” or “misses” are frequently impacted by macro factors. Excuses such as “sales execution” or “product transition” or “merger integration” issues are less frequent than conference calls would suggest. “Customers postponed purchases” or “down-sized deals” or “customers released budgets” or “a few large deals closed unexpectedly” are more likely explanations.

Now, major sell-side and buy-side institutions are trialing new software that leverages cloud infrastructure and big data analytics to model markets and stocks. Massive data sets can include macro news from anywhere in the world, such as economic variables, political events, seasonal and cyclical factors. These can be blended with company-specific events, including earnings, financings or M&A activity. Newer data sources, including social media, GPS and spatial can also be layered into models. Users can input thousands of variables to build specific models for an entire market or an individual security.

As with any predictive analytics model the key is to ask the right questions. However, the machine learning capabilities of the software will allow the system to not only answer queries but to also determine what questions to ask.

The advantages to both sell-side and buy side firms are significant. They include:

  • Lower costs. Firms can avoid major technology investments by leveraging the scale and processing power of cloud-based infrastructure and analytics software. They can collect, correlate and analyze huge, complex data sets and built models in a fraction of the time and cost that it takes in-house analysts to do.
  • Accuracy. Machine learning and advanced predictive analytics techniques are far more reliable and scalable than models built in Excel spreadsheets. Patterns can be detected to capture small nuances in markets and/or between securities that high-frequency trading platforms have been exploiting for years.
  • Competitiveness. The software can make both sell-side and buy-side firms more competitive with the largest, most technologically advanced hedge funds that have custom-built platforms to perform analytics on this scale in real time. In addition to enhancing performance, the software can be leveraged to improve client services by making select tools available to individual investors.

Analysts become data scientists

The analyst skill set must evolve. They will still have to perform fundamental analysis to understand the markets they follow and each company’s management, strategy, products/services and distribution channels. And they will still have to judge whether a company can execute on these factors.

But to increase their value, analysts will have do statistical modeling and use analytics tools to gain a deeper understanding of what drivers move markets, sectors or particular stocks. Data discovery and visualization tools will replace spreadsheets for identifying dependencies, patterns and trends, valuation analysis, and investment decision making. Analysts will also need a deeper understand client strategies and trading styles in order to tailor their “research” to individual clients.

These technologies may well continue to shrink the ranks of analysts because of their inherent advantages. But those analysts who can master these techniques to complement their traditional roles may not only survive, but lift their value – at least until the playing field levels – because of their new alpha-generating capabilities.

A Career in Market Research

Market research offers a wide array of job profile from which you can make your selection. In essence, the market research wing of any company plays a pivotal role in helping the company make profits through selling their products. This department collects facts, analyzes them, and compiles the findings into a report which also contains suggestions about the possible steps that the company needs to take in order to sell its products.

Market research careers are high paying jobs and have been identified to be job spheres that hold much promise of growth. While an average employee earns around 61k annually, few of the best professionals working in this department for the top notch companies rake in over 100k a year.

Now if this little trivia has got you interested in market research jobs, then allow me to elaborate on the conditions that you need to fulfill in order to bag a job. Not only do you need a bachelor’s degree in marketing, you need to have other qualities as well. Depending on your attributes, you are sorted in to different working units within the market research department.

To understand market research career profiles, you need to understand the types of job posts available in this wing:

• Market Research Manager- If you have good supervisory ability and can do justice to the authority that has been put in your hands, you are a definite manager material. All you need to do is to ensure that the subordinate staff are doing their bit and compiling the report on time. If the department runs slow and fails to turn in their key findings on time, a company is rendered paralyzed for without the feedback from this wing they will be unable to market the product.

• Market Research Executive/ Analyst- These people play an important role within the wing itself. Not only do they chalk out the course of action plan that this wing is going to undertake in order to file the report, but they also play a hefty role in analyzing the facts collected by others working in this department.

People who are market research analysts or executives need to have a critical reasoning faculty apart from the ability to analyze and deduce results from a set of given facts. These are also the employees who work non-stop in identifying the key findings of the primary research work and in filing a strategy based advice report. Since this report is mostly presented in front of the company executives, people working in this unit cannot possibly suffer from public speaking phobia. Finally they also need to have a good grasp over the language, for it is their way of presenting the facts in paper that will earn them brownie points.

• Market Research Worker/ Interviewer- These are the people who are credited with carrying out the work at grass root level. From designing online polls and questionnaire to conducting face to face interview in order to feel the pulse of the market and collect data; they are the nuts and bolts that hold the department together.

Now that you have a fair bit of idea about market research job profiles, I am sure you will be able to get a clearer picture and judge for yourself, if this is the right job sphere for you or not!

Discover the Types of Analyst Resumes

An analyst is a person who does all the investigation, examination and researches on any specific area or sector and then implements the required strategies for improved efficiency and higher productivity. These people should have strong analytical skills and also possess strong thinking capabilities. To start a career in this field, the first step is creating an effective resume that should reflect all the analytical skills of the applicant and also the relevant work experience.

There are many types of analyst resume depending on the type and scope of the job profile. Though the basic structure of all the types remain the same but the specifications and keywords used for creating each type of analyst resume. Specified keywords and other specifications should be kept in mind while writing the resume.

Here are some of the most important types of analyst resumes:

Chemical Analyst Resumes

Chemical analyst is a person who should have an eye to drug formation techniques and methods. He or she examines various techniques to get the best possible methods to verify the reliability of drugs and also determine its quality and stability. The resume of chemical analyst should also possess the same analytical skills. It should have strong keywords showing relevant work experience.

Business Analyst Resumes

Business analyst is a person who analyzes and examines all the business processes and takes care of the operations and functions. Depending on new strategies and techniques based on the research, an analyst plays an influential role in improving efficiency and productivity of any business. The resume of business analyst should also comprise skill sets that define applicant’s role as an examiner of business operations. It should also dictate the achievements and accomplishments of the applicant in the same field.

Marketing Analyst Resume

A marketing analyst is a person who analyzes and verifies price, product competition, customer strength, and economic data of various business firms. This helps any firm to take a firm decision on what to improve and where to improve. This also helps to adopt new strategies and techniques to improve business efficiency. The marketing analyst resume should be written in precise and expressive manner. It should contain work experience with relevant skills and abilities.

Systems Analyst

System analyst or computer system analyst is someone who analyzes the technical design and system requirement. He or she is also responsible for development of new software and also implement the deadlines of various projects. The system analyst resume should also explain in detail the analytical skills of the applicant in terms of computer operations and development.

To know more, check Analyst Resumes.

How To Research Stocks On Your Own

There are many people who are keen on investing in the stock market, but who are not necessarily confident, or comfortable about making those all-important investment decisions. No matter what level of investment, large or small, it’s important to know something about what you’re putting your money into. So, if you are an investor and are prepared to be self-reliant, then you need to think about how to research stocks and basically become your own stock analyst. This article is aimed at giving the less experienced investor a helping hand in terms of providing some useful guidance on to how to research stocks on your own.

Where Is The Information?

The first step is to begin thinking like an analyst – develop an enquiring mind. You need to find out what to buy or sell and at what price. Analysts usually focus on one particular industry or sector. If it’s a sector then they’ll focus on certain companies. An analyst’s aim is to probe into the businesses of the companies on their list. They do this by analysing financial reports and as much other available information as possible about the company. To cross-check the facts, analysts also dig into the dealings between the company and its suppliers, customers and competitors. Some analysts also visit the company, engaging with its management in order to gain a first-hand understanding of the workings of the company, and so over time they connect all the pieces of information together to get the full picture.

Before making any investment, you should do your own research. It is always better to research several stocks in the same industry so that you have a comparative analysis. However, the biggest constraint in doing your own research will probably be time. Retail investors who have many other things to do may not be able to devote as much time to research as professional analysts. However, you can surely take up just one or two firms in the beginning and test how well you can analyze them. That would help you in understanding the process and with further experience and time, you can add more stocks for analysis into your portfolio.

Can Analysts Help?

Getting your hands on anlaysts’ research reports can be a great way to start your own analysis. That way, you save a lot of time and learn much about your selected company simply by reading these reports. You may not necessarily want to follow their sell or buy recommendations, but you can get a great overview of the company, including its strengths and weaknesses, main competitors, industry outlook and future prospects. Analysts’ reports are loaded with information, and reading reports by different analysts simultaneously would help you in identifying a common thread. Opinions may differ, but basic facts in all reports are usually very common.

In addition it would be wise to take a close look at various analysts’ earnings forecasts, which ultimately determine their buy or sell recommendations. Different analysts may set different target prices for the same stock. Always look for the reasons while reading analysts’ reports. What would have been your opinion about the present stock, given the same information? No clue? Then move on to the next step.

What To Look For?

Let’s take the analysts approach in learning how to research stocks on your own. Firstly, try to understand the various steps involved in analysing a stock. Some analysts follow a “top-down” strategy, starting with an industry and then locating a well-performing company, while others take a “bottom-up” approach, starting with a particular company and then learning about the outlook for the industry. Either way is good, but try to take account to the following:

analyze the industry – there are publicly available sources of information for pretty much any industry. Often, the annual report of a company will give a good overview of the industry, along with its future growth outlook. Annual reports will often also provide information about the company’s competitors in their industry. Simultaneously reading the annual reports of two or three companies should give a clearer picture. You can also subscribe to trade magazines and websites that cater to a particular industry for monitoring the latest industry happenings;

business model – take a look at the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Is it a strong company in a weak industry, or weak company in a strong industry? The strengths of a company are often reflected in things such as its unique brand, products, customers and suppliers. You can learn about a company’s business model from its annual report, trade magazines and websites too;

financial strength – this is arguably the most important element of all when analyzing a company. You need to take a look at a company’s balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statements. Often, the numbers in the financial statements offer more information than the words in the annual report. In case you are not comfortable with numbers, no need to hesitate, just start learning as early as possible;

management – have you ever heard the expression there are no good or bad companies, only good or bad managers? Senior executives are responsible for the management and future of any company, so assess company management and board quality by doing some research on the internet;

growth outlook – it’s well-known that stock prices track earnings, the higher the earnings then, typically, the higher the stock price. Try to find out what you can about where future earnings are predicted to be. This is not too easy and analysts tend to make their own estimates by looking at past figures of sales growth and profit margins, along with profitability trends in that particular industry. It’s basically connecting what has happened in the past to what’s expected to happen in the future. Making accurate enough earnings forecasts is the ultimate test of your stock analysis capabilities, because it’s a good indication of how well you understand those industries and companies;

valuation – if you are able to establish indications about future earnings, the next step is to know about the value, or worth of a company. Analysts need to find out how much the current market price of the stocks is justified relative to the company’s value. There is no “correct” value and different analysts will use different parameters. For example, “value” investors look at intrinsic worth, whereas “growth” investors look at future earnings potential;

target price – try to establish a target price. Once you have established future earnings potential, calculate high and low target prices by multiplying estimated earnings per share (EPS) with the estimated high and low P/E Ratio. The high and low target prices represent the price band within which the future stock price is likely to move in response to the expected future earnings.

Finally

A lot of what is outlined above is really useful in showing you how to research stocks on your own. Ultimately you want to make a profit, and one of the best ways to give yourself the best chance of doing that, and avoid paying someone else to do it for you, is to do your own research. It can be fun, interesting and will certainly increase your understanding not only of the stock market more generally, but also, of those particular stocks and companies that you have an interest in.