Rahul Dohare, Equity Research at a Global Investment Bank

A bit about yourself

I currently work as an equity research analyst at my current firm. I was in Dual Degree Civil Engineering, with my M. Tech. specialization being in Infrastructure Planning and Management. I joined PwC after IIT as a consultant in infrastructure advisory team, where I got a decent exposure to finance. My Roommates were into finance, and that is where I developed my interest in the field. I did my MBA in finance from IIM Lucknow, during which I also completed two CFA levels. During my MBA, I interned at Goldman Sachs and got a PPO as a buy-side equity research analyst in Bangalore, and later moved to Mumbai and joined my current firm as a sell-side equity research analyst.

Buy-side vs. sell-side

An associate has kind of similar roles at both buy-side and sell-side firms, roles differ significantly only at senior levels. The primary work involves analysing companies for investment decision/recommendation. A buy-side role involves making the investment decisions for appropriate fund allocation that the company is currently managing for endowment funds, pension funds, etc. Sell-side analysts are licensed experts who prepare research reports that go into the public domain and their clients are mainly the buy-side firms who subscribe to this research. Both Buy-side and sell-side analysts usually specialized in a particular sector/geography.

What are the skills needed for you current role as sell side equity research analyst?

A good understanding of financial analysis and accounting knowledge is the very basic requirement. Good writing and verbal skills are also crucial on sell-side since we have to write formal reports. Programming or highly technical skills are largely not necessary for equity research, but other quant roles may require programming skills. The most common thing that is pointed out by recruiters at any level is communication skills. A lot of times, people lag in their verbal and written communications. That is one thing that people should be working on from undergrad. This matters because there may be a time when you’re good at something, but you aren’t able to present your thoughts effectively; which can be a hindrance in your career progression. Once you start working, you may also have to go out and speak to clients, communicate, and negotiate, which is where communication skills come handy. Things like formal dressing and how you carry yourself are important too, but that’s something you can pick up quickly if you really want to.

How difficult is switching between different roles in finance industry? Are there opportunities to go abroad?

There are a wide range of roles available in financial services industry like equity research, investment banking, alternative investments (like real estate, private equity etc.), risk management, quant-based roles like Algo strategies, or, Macro strategies that cater to a wide variety client needs. Switching is generally encouraged and supported, but the skill requirements vary between roles. It might be difficult for a non-tech person to go into quant teams, but if the skills and opportunities are present, then switching is not hard and it happens all the time. Opportunities for going abroad are ample, provided that you perform, and there are available opportunities.

Is an MBA necessary? What about Masters in finance? What other courses would you recommend?

It depends on what you’ve done before. If you are in a job that you like and there is no internal requirement of MBA for progressing in your career, then you can continue with the job. But if you think you aren’t doing well or your profile needs a boost, it will make sense to do an MBA, or it can serve as a path to switching your field from technical to something else. Tech undergrads are mostly for quant based roles and clearing CFA can help if you want to switch to finance. CFA gives a broad overview; From economics, portfolio management, risk management, investment fundamentals for different asset classes like equity/debt, derivatives, understanding investors’ risk/return needs, and ethics. Higher education is a plus. If you are really interested in finance you can try getting a minor in finance during undergrad. In my knowledge, M.S. in finance is not very common, but it’s not something that will be taken lightly. It’ll might cater to some particular kind of role in the industry. Please don’t be worried about running after all of the things. It does not make a huge difference but only shows that you are interested in the subject. On the job performance matters more than anything else. After a few years, most people don’t even mention their cgpa or their branch. All that matters is their current skills, performance in earlier roles and fitness for the role/organization you are looking to work in. Academics are essential and cannot be taken lightly, but your skills and attitude is all that really matters, and learning keeps on going lifelong. Your job will teach you the most. Education will build a good foundation, but if you think that your CFA or MBA will get you a very big advantage over others when you start working, that’s not true, you’ll start from ground zero, and that’s where your real growth would happen.

What are the exit opportunities?

The sky is the limit; you can do whatever you want to do. For me, It might be some front-office equity research or asset management, private equity, or investment banking. If you have the tech skills, then you can switch to quant. The bars are set high for consulting jobs, so if you have a record of excellent performance and can make a compelling argument to the recruiters, you can switch to that as well.

How is the industry affected by the pandemic? How would it affect this year’s placements?

It is definitely a big factor, but not everyone is impacted to the same extent. Several companies may have the strength to endure the storm, hence they might not change their hiring policies to maintain a consistent hiring trend. There are some companies who are benefiting due to COVID-19 as well like medical supplies providers for example mask and glove makers. In terms of the macroeconomic scenario, it’s pretty obvious that it will be dull for some time, and it may reflect on placements, but most of the big names would likely be there, and if you are well prepared, then there will be opportunities. These are strictly my personal view on the subject.

What is your advice to students?

Academics are necessary, take them seriously, work hard! But if you find yourself in a situation where you feel you haven’t done as good as you should have, it’s okay. There would be opportunities to do different things and learn. There is no need to feel depressed or give up. Opportunities are always there. A vast number of people are not doing what they specialized in undergrad. You will come across people with a CGPA of more than nine or a very less CGPA, but are after coming out of undergrad, they switched from their core branch and became successful. Sometimes depression builds when you’re worried about acads or placements; it’s nothing to worry about, you can always have a fresh start no matter where you are.

Contact Alum : https://www.linkedin.com/in/rahul-dohare

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