Description: A financial analyst is someone who gathers and analyzes financial information in order to provide advice to clients regarding financial decisions. Scientists who become financial analysts divide into two categories: those who utilize high-level mathematical and programming skills to become ‘quantitative’ analysts, and those who utilize knowledge of science-based industries to provide tailored information. Some individuals trained in the biomedical sciences have the mathematical and/or data skills of sufficient magnitude to gain employment in the former, but the latter is the norm. Analysts with scientific training are able to understand and communicate the complexity of biotechs, pharmaceuticals, and related enterprises. The major components of the job are company- and industry-specific research, marketing stocks to investors, and to some extent corporate financing. The ability to communicate with diverse audiences, for example eliciting information from management teams, finding those who can corroborate this information, and being able to explain one’s conclusions to sales teams and investors, is essential. From all accounts of those in this profession, success in the career requires long hours and large amounts of energy to keep on top of the rapid advances and keen competition.
Advantages of an advanced degree: There are many allusions by those in the field to the power bestowed by having a PhD following one’s name, but the advantages of course run far more deeply. Chief among them is the ability to understand the science and perspectives of those producing that science in considerable if not exhaustive detail. A scientist who becomes an analyst will come to speak two languages, as one writer put it (see the article by Swarup below): one is the language of science, and the second is the language of finance. Another widely acknowledged advantage is the quantitative skill set that comes with earning a PhD.
Key competencies: There are many skills required in this line of business. Quantitative skills, including those that extend to financial fundamentals, are at the top of the list. For any biomedical PhD who wants to become a financial analyst, therefore, additional training is in the mix. Highly sophisticated written and verbal skills are paramount, since one’s reasoning must be explained frequently in different ways, often with the intent of persuasion.
On-campus student organizations: Wharton has a number of relevant undergraduate and MBA groups, for example the Investment and Trading Group, Private Equity/Venture Capital Association, Undergraduate Finance Club, Investment Management Club, and Impact Investing Partners.
First steps: Getting involved in business networks and enterprise initiatives here at Penn, for example through Wharton, can lead to relevant connections, as can contacting alumni who have taken this route. One can acquire an understanding of company and share fundamentals through textbooks and/or classes. Reading finance-oriented periodicals will provide a sense of the current picture of general or specific industries.
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