Two Hidden Gems for Financial Analysts: Real Estate and Mutual Funds

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News flash! You don’t have to work on Wall Street to be a financial analyst.

Financial analyst jobs come in all shapes and sizes, so there are plenty of opportunities to land
analyst positions at a wide variety of financial firms spread across the country — not just in Manhattan. Analyst jobs can serve as springboards to other finance jobs in various sectors,whether they’re at investments banks, hedge funds, brokerage companies, private equity firms or other types of companies located in major cities across the country and globe.

Really? Tell me more…

Take Roy Sandeman, 26, who got his MBA at Providence College three years ago and considered pursuing a finance career at one of New York’s big financial houses. But after extensive research and networking, Sandeman, who earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Leeds, decided to take a job as a financial analyst at a major commercial real estate firm in Boston, where he crunched numbers and analyzed multimillion dollar commercial real estate lease deals for major corporate tenants and office building owners.

How’d that work out?

Two years later, he was promoted to senior analyst within the firm’s capital markets group, helping put together even larger office and industrial building sale deals. He now hopes to move up the ladder into senior management positions in coming years. “You have to keep your eyes and options open,” says Sandeman, who believes his engineering background has helped him in his new finance career within commercial real estate. “I’m in a field I like. I’m still crunching numbers, but now I’m in direct contact with clients and helping out in actual deals.”

Following is a look at just two areas that financial analyst wannabes might consider: real estate and mutual fund financial analyst jobs.

Real Estate and Mutual Funds: Where You’ll Become an Expert

The job of a financial analyst always come down to roughly the same thing, no matter the sector: long, hard hours of carefully researching company, industry, market and economic data and then making recommendations to senior managers about a course of action — such as whether to pursue a deal or pull back. Candidates with degrees in business administration, finance, accounting, math and economics are preferred.

In the case of commercial real estate and mutual fund analysts, though, their research concentrations can and will vary greatly.

Real Estate: Financial analysts within commercial real estate — which also includes publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and commercial mortgage companies (which effectively serve as investment banks for the buying and selling of sometimes huge commercial properties) — have to learn the intricacies of the real estate industry: office and industrial lease prices for a given market; cash flows of office buildings and industrial facilities; and debt payment and refinancing details. In addition, analysts will need to keep up with average moving and renovation costs, the economic and employment conditions of particular industries within regions and countries, and a host of other variables specific to real estate.

Mutual Funds: Financial analysts at mutual funds — either independent mutual fund firms or funds within giant parent companies, such as banks or insurance firms — serve as the effective eyes and ears for portfolio managers who can oversee multibillion dollar funds of a seemingly infinite variety: small-cap funds, Blue Chip funds, tech funds, energy funds, healthcare funds, and the list goes on and on. Financial analysts at mutual funds are usually assigned to a specific sector fund for a few years, and they better master the sector intricacies they’re covering.

The Upside: Career Potential and Flexibility

Move on up in real estate. Financial analysts within commercial real estate traditionally move up the ladder to become brokers, vice presidents, directors or partners, depending on the terminology and structure of individual firms. MBA degrees are highly advisable in order to advance, but not always critically necessary. One thing is almost always a must: Studying for and getting a commercial real estate broker’s license.

Or climb the ladder in mutual funds. The ultimate goal of analysts at mutual funds is to become a portfolio manager overseeing funds and managing other analysts working under them. MBAs are highly desirable for those wanting to advance to higher positions, and becoming a Certified Financial Advisor is must.

Then, leverage that experience. A major attraction for financial analysts at commercial real estate and mutual funds is that they can parlay their sector expertise to land jobs at hedge funds, private equity firms, investment banks, REITs, asset managers and other financial firms specializing in their new fields.

And live where you want to. Because there are commercial real estate and mutual fund firms and offices in most major cities across the country and globe, financial analysts in these fields also have incredible geographic flexibility. They can generally work where they want after they gain some experience, or at least they have a greater opportunity to land jobs where they hope to go.

The Burning Question: What About Compensation?

Salary: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the mean salary of financial analysts is about $75,000 — and that roughly holds true for analysts within commercial real estate. The pay at mutual fund companies is usually higher, but it varies from firm to firm.

Bonuses! On top of regular pay, financial analysts within both fields usually get bonuses, from 20 percent to double their salaries, pushing their compensation higher.

Potential: The salary rises as an analyst gets promoted and takes over more responsibilities. Compensation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and even in the low millions is the norm within both fields after bonuses and commissions are included.

About the Author: Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.

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