How to Become a Financial Analyst

The financial analyst has always been one of the most coveted roles within the financial services industry. What’s changed in the past few years is legacy banking institutions turn towards hiring those with Financial Technology (fintech) experience and knowledge.

Combining the best of the finance industry with the world of technology, careers in fintech are some of the hottest on the job market right now. Consumers want fast and easy access to their banking information and investment accounts, whether on their phone, computer, or even smart device. Concurrently, legacy banking institutions and startups are investing into next-generation cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies.

All of these trends have led to an increase in new positions, particularly in the analyst space. Organizations are turning to Financial Analysts with a fintech specialty to inform them of trends and consumer preferences, forecast revenue and conduct research using vast amounts of complex data. The position often requires a mastery of not only fintech technologies, but also advanced data analysis techniques and the financial services industry as a whole.The varied nature of the position might leave you wondering how you can best get on track to land this type of job within the industry. We’ve broken down the top five steps you can take to become a Financial Analyst within the fintech field, and compiled information on salary, education requirements, career paths and more.

Here are five concrete steps you can take to become a Financial Analyst:

  1. Study the industry
  2. Gain Coding Fluency
  3. Master Industry Standard Tools
  4. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field
  5. Obtain a Fintech Certification

Read on to learn everything you need to know about this lucrative and fulfilling career path!

What is the Job Description for a Financial Analyst?

The Financial Analyst role and daily responsibilities are going to vary by organization, but there are some key tenants any applicant can expect. The analyst can expect to conduct research and identify business opportunities and make investment recommendations. Within the fintech space, they are expected to also advise on topics such as blockchain, artificial intelligence in banking, digital wealth management and more. This might encompass gathering internal findings on a company’s product or external market research to be presented to stakeholders.

While these tasks definitely require qualitative research skills, a majority of the Financial Analyst’s responsibilities involve working with large data sets to build and test complex market hypotheses. This often requires experience with database and data visualization softwares and competency in coding languages like SQL used to manage these datasets. The role could even include playing a key part in managing income forecasts or working with individual large clients. Overall, the position allows for a large amount of diversity among day-to-day tasks, and requires a familiarity with all aspects of the deliverable lifecycle: data collection, analysis, visualization and findings communication.

Financial Analyst Qualifications

Since Financial Analysts can be found at banks, startups, app developers and more across the tech industry, there’s no standard set of skills they must possess. Many have transitioned into the role with varied backgrounds in consulting, market research, data analysis or Finance. However, some skills you might see for Financial Analysts and fintech professional across the board include:

  • SQL, the programming language most commonly used alongside data analysis and processing
  • Python, another language highly used in the financial sector for trading, pricing and risk management
  • Exception analytical abilities – Must be able to draw insightful conclusions from large data sets and work with data visualization tools like MatplotlibTableau/Power BI and Excel
  • A demonstrated mastery of the financial services industry as well as the growing fintech Sector. The analyst must be deeply familiar with new technologies such as blockchain, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence and InsurTech
  • Experience with market research best practices and understanding of client needs
  • Must take responsibility for regular reporting and full deliverable lifecycle
  • Excellent communication skills, and ability to present concisely with internal and external stakeholders

 

Financial Analyst Education Requirements

A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum requirement for a Financial Analyst position. A master’s degree is preferred for advanced positions in the field, but that is not always the case. Employers accept different areas of specialization, as long as they have a data and quantitative research background. These include finance, accounting and economics, but also statistics, mathematics, engineering and physics. Applicants outside of a core finance program might want to consider taking some business courses as well, so they receive a well-rounded look at their career path.

In addition, the Financial Management Association International (FMA) offers an industry-standard Certified Financial Analyst certification. To complete the program, candidates must complete three exams and gain three years of qualifying work experience. The curriculum focuses on portfolio management and investment analysis, and typically costs up to $5,000. Another option outside the undergraduate sphere, is to take a bootcamp. Programs specializing in fintech or Data Science can fill the gap of those brand new job-critical skills four year institutions have yet to develop the curriculum for.

 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Financial Analyst?

Students generally qualify for junior level Financial Analyst positions directly out of a bachelor’s program. On average, professionals might spend 3-5 years gaining experience before ascending to a more senior manager role, but every individual’s path will be different. Above anything else, a continual willingness to learn and ability to demonstrate on-the-job problem solving will serve as the most important traits for future Financial Analysts!

How to Become a Financial Analyst

  1. Study the Industry – Given the new nature of fintech technologies, even people within the financial services don’t always fully grasp their full capabilities. A great way to ensure you’ll ace any job interview is to have a deep understanding of the major players and products within the ecosystem. Get in the habit of reading the latest updates from publications like TechCrunch, or even consider subscribing to newsletters like A.I.thority or FinExtra.
  2. Gain Coding Fluency – Working with data in this capacity requires a detailed understanding of coding languages. The most vital to have in your toolbox are SQL and Python, but the software of legacy financial institutions is often built on C or Java, so knowing the basics of those can only strengthen your candidacy. You might want to explore taking a coding bootcamp, or for the especially self-determined, looking at free coding resources available online.
  3. Master Industry Standard Tools – Alongside coding knowledge, analysts need to be masters of databases and analytics platforms. Looker, Zapier, Tableau and Power BI are powerful tools for data visualization and analysis that you might come across at fintech firms, in addition to the databases they integrate with. An individual in this role should also be comfortable in Microsoft Excel and the standard softwares used in presentations.
  4. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field – Almost all fintech and analyst roles you come across will require at least an undergraduate-level degree. The good news is that degree can be in any number of fields that touch on the skills needed. These might include finance, management, economics, or even computer science. Any of these programs can typically give applicants the critical quantitative research experience they need. Those coming in from the business or consulting side might possess an MBA as well, but that isn’t always required for entry-level or junior positions.
  5. Obtain a Fintech Certification – Higher education institutions can be slow to adapt, so you aren’t going to find many degree programs geared specifically towards fintech. Filling the gap are a number of certification and bootcamp programs that provide detailed instruction in blockchain, financial libraries, machine learning and more. These programs can normally be completed in a matter of months and often include career support services and networking opportunities. If you’re not yet ready to make the full leap into a bootcamp, major learning platforms like Coursera and edX offer free high quality courses online.

Explore schools offering Financial Analyst Bootcamps.

Job Outlook for a Financial Analyst

The job outlook is excellent for a Financial Analyst, especially within the growing fintech Sector. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the role is expected to grow by six percent over the next decade, rising to more than half a million. They of course can be found within the financial services industry, but this role is also typically needed at credit companies, insurance agencies and a wide variety of professional services firms.

Fintech in particular is driving massive growth within the industry, spiking demand for analysts with this skillset. Quarter 2 of 2021 saw a record setting $30.8 billion raised by fintech companies according to CB insights. More than 80% of finance corporations have invested in the technology in some way.

 

Best jobs for a Financial Analyst

The finance world offers a number of paths and entry-level roles for those breaking into the industry. Typically one might enter as a junior analyst, under the oversight of a senior analyst. They might consider obtaining a more advanced degree, or be promoted to a full analyst, and then either a portfolio or fund manager. However, this is not always the case, depending on the size and type of firm. Startups or non-finance companies might have a smaller finance department, and allow junior employees to take on more responsibilities directly after college.

On the fintech side, applicants can also enter the role with more of a tech or more of a finance background. Entry level positions might include Investment Banking Analyst, Junior Product Manager, Mobile App Developer, Data Specialist or Data Analyst.

Financial Analyst Salary

Using data from Indeed.com, we’ve broken down the typical salary of Financial Analyst and adjacent roles within the industry in the United States. As you can see, these in-demand and highly skilled positions typically command six-figure salaries. Many institutions offer additional on the job perks and benefits for top performers. Keep in mind, these salary amounts might vary significantly by region/city.

 
PositionAverage Salary in the U.S. (as of September 2021)
Financial Analyst$67,457
Fintech Associate$65,515
Financial Planning Analyst$73,084
Financial Advisor$72,883
Financial Consultant$65,459

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