Analyst

What it is:

An analyst gathers and interprets data about securities, companies, corporate strategies, economies or financial markets. Analysts are sometimes called financial analysts, securities analysts, equity analysts or investment analysts (although there is a distinction among these titles).

How it works/Example:

Much of an analyst's job involves gathering data from publications, researchers and other sources; creating financial models; and writing reports or making presentations. Analysts are heavily involved with mergers and acquisitions, consulting, corporate strategy, bankruptcy, and myriad other financially important processes. Thus, their projects can be wide-ranging, and can include creating a company's budget for the coming years; deciding what sort of buy-or-sell advice to give clients; evaluating the prospects for a particular security; or deciding how much to pay to acquire a certain company. Securities analysts in particular usually write research reports for clients and offer buy and sell recommendations.

Analysts work for public and private companies, nonprofit organizations, investment banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, government entities and nearly any other organization that is concerned about making sound financial decisions. They must be able to work well with clients, peers and their bosses; explain their ideas quickly and precisely; have presentation skills; and be extremely confident with spreadsheets and numbers. Some travel a lot. Analysts typically work considerably long work weeks, particularly early in their careers.

Analysts often have undergraduate or graduate business degrees, but many investment firms train entry-level analysts, which means an undergraduate degree in business is not always necessary if a candidate shows aptitude. Some analysts also enter the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program to further their credentials. Many analysts go on to become senior analysts, investment bankers, consultants, advisors and chief financial officers.

Why it Matters:

An analyst helps people make decisions. Analysts gather and interpret data to do this, and quite often they have to project future events. To do this well, an analyst has to stay on top of industry and company trends, market trends, economic trends, new regulations, changes in accounting rules, and a host of other information.

For this reason, analysts carry a great degree of responsibility. The results of their analyses frequently determine the course of major decisions, and a mistake in a spreadsheet or an overlooked piece of information could mean inadvertently making the wrong decisions, which could have far-reaching effects on client portfolios, stock prices, corporate strategies or even a company's solvency.

Best execution refers to the imperative that a broker, market maker, or other agent acting on behalf of an investor is obligated to execute the investor's order in a way that is most advantageous to the investor rather than the agent.