The Sweet and Lowdown on Being a Financial Analyst

Financial analysts are in high demand right now. And, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial analyst positions will grow by 16 percent by 2022, due in part to companies’ increasing dependence on big data and enterprise resource planning systems.

But being a financial analyst isn't what it used to be. Traditionally, a financial analyst job description focused on the ability to review a firm’s financial status by analyzing plans, forecasts and reports. These days, the position carries greater responsibility, diversity and fulfillment, as financial analysts are also asked to interpret financial data and turn it into solid business recommendations. Here are some examples of skills needed by today’s financial analysts:

Business acumen

A deep knowledge of how the business operates is key to contributing to department-specific and overall business strategies and providing data-sourced solutions grounded in solid analysis. The financial analyst must be able to translate reports and forecasts into easy-to-understand advice that will streamline processes, improve efficiency, save time and money, and prepare the company for growth.

Data analytics

Financial analysts must know how to use big data to benefit the organization. According to an IBM report, "71 percent of banking and financial market firms say that using information (including big data) and analytics is creating a competitive advantage for their organizations." From entry-level up, financial analysts are often expected not only to handle big data but also to progressively master database analytics. This requires a flair for recognizing meta-patterns and understanding and conveying the knock-on effects of changes within their flow.

IT skills

Gone are the days when financial analysts and IT professionals sat at opposite sides of the building without knowing each other’s names. Today, top financial analysts regularly collaborate with tech peers in areas such as cloud migration and data security. A wide range of available certifications, such as Microsoft Certification Programs (MCP) and ISACA certifications, can help financial analysts gain IT proficiency. And CompTIA Cloud Essentials covers everything from the business to the IT side of cloud services.

Finger on the pulse

Employers expect financial analysts to stay abreast of industry and sector developments. What’s happening in the world of compliance? In the IT arena. How are accounting and finance standards and practices becoming more globalized? How can the organization adapt to stay ahead of the game? Professionals can stay up-to-date by networking with colleagues, signing up for online publications and attending industry events.

Experienced financial analysts are currently in strong demand, even more so than in recent years, and salaries are increasing by 4 percent or more this year. To learn more about compensation at various experience levels and company sizes, consult the 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half.