What is a financial analyst and what do they do?

Financial analysts provide senior management with the financial analysis and reporting that supports strategic decision-making and assists with long-term financial planning for the organisation.

Financial analysts assist with decisions on project prioritisation, acquisitions and other investments. Their knowledge of market trends and wider macroeconomic conditions allow them to make predictions about businesses, sectors and industries. They will build financial models to assess the viability and commercial return on these opportunities, presenting their findings and advice to senior management.

By establishing financial benchmarks, a financial analyst will also measure company performance. They review and compare present data to past performance, as well as comparing actual results to forecasted results and pinpoint improvement areas. In addition, they perform industry and competitor analysis and develop financial models to illustrate how particular trends or market conditions could impact the business in the future.

Key responsibilities

  • Analysing financial data and performing financial forecasting and reporting for senior management to support decision making.
  • Developing financial models to support valuation, planning and forecasting.
  • Evaluating financial performance - analysing past results, comparing and analysing actual results with plans and forecasts, identifying trends and recommending improvements.
  • Providing analysis of trends and forecasts and recommending actions for optimisation.
  • Analysing company performance on an absolute and relative basis.
  • Liaising with the accounting team to ensure accurate financial reporting.
  • Identifying and driving process improvements - creating standard and ad-hoc reports, tools and Excel dashboards.
  • Performing market research, data mining and business intelligence.
  • Assisting in the preparation of marketing pitchbooks and related materials.
  • Maintaining up-to-date technical knowledge of financial instruments, market conditions and trends.

Why are they important?

Financial analysts are trusted advisors and consult regularly with senior management on strategic decisions for short and long-term growth. They provide actionable information on profitability, solvency, stability and liquidity, as well as building reports that illustrate the company’s current financial status and any risks that may exist. The work that they do informs management, allows them to assess investment opportunities and helps to ensure the organisation’s strategic goals can be met.

Skills needed for this role

Financial analysts must have strong analytical and modelling skills, with a high level of accuracy and attention to detail. Excellent oral and written communication skills are essential and individuals must be comfortable working with, and presenting to, senior level management. Financial analysts should be able to multi-task and also demonstrate confidentiality in their work.

Strategic Professional Options examinations linked to this role

Advanced Performance Management

Career opportunities presented by this role

Financial analyst roles exist in many larger organisations and there is an increasing demand for professionals in this area. Opportunities are largely available in-house and across a wide variety of industries. The career path is well structured - roles start at analyst level and progress up to director.

Competencies

High level competencies required include:

  • Advisory and consultancy

    A. Gathers and understands financial and non-financial information to develop complete knowledge of the client business and the environment in which it operates.

    B. Provides expert advice that will add value to the business and gain advantage.

    C. Identify and advise on business partnering to develop strategic relationships to create opportunities, improve performance and solve business problems.

    D. Prepare and present business plans and advise on the actions to implement these plans.

  • Corporate and business reporting

    A. Prepares financial statements, corporate financial and integrated reports for external stakeholders using appropriate technology.

    B. Leads effective decision making through analysing, evaluating and communicating performance and position of entities.

    C. Prepares financial statements for groups of entities using appropriate technologies.

    D. Monitors, critically evaluates, and advises on the relevant accounting standards, regulations, conceptual and financial reporting frameworks.

  • Data, digital and technology

    A. Identifies strategic options to add value, using data and technology.

    B. Analyses and evaluates data using appropriate technologies and tools.

    C. Applies technologies to visualise data clearly and effectively.

    D. Applies scepticism and ethical judgement to the use of data and data technology.

  • Financial management

    A. Links developments in global trade, markets, business practices and the economic environment to required improvements in the financial and risk management of an organisation.

    B. Advises on business asset valuations, capital projects and investments using appropriate analytical qualitative and quantitative techniques.

    C. Identifies, evaluates and advises on alternative sources of business finance and different ways of raising finance.

    D. Communicates and advises on the impact on financial decision making on current developments in regulation, governance and ethics.

    E. Assesses and advises on appropriate strategies to manage business and organisational performance regarding business and finance risk and effectively communicates the impact.

     

     

  • Management accounting

    A. Applies development and performance management, in the wider business and technological environment, within the context of strategic planning and implementation.

    B. Directs organisational performance through the selection and measurement of financial and non-financial performance indicators.

    C. Collaborates on the key tactical and organisational areas of budgeting and control, capital investments, people and resource management.

    D. Consults on the design and use of current and emerging technology and information systems to improve strategic decision-making and organisational performance.

     

  • Strategy and innovation

    A. Applies business acumen and commercial awareness to deliver business objectives.

    B. Recommends a range of suitable strategic options from which to develop sustainable plans and objectives.

    C. Evaluates, justifies and implements suitable strategic options.

    D. Adopts and applies innovative methods to implement strategy and manages change.