Financial analysts are much more than number crunchers who are obsessed with dollars and cents. These finance and accounting professionals help businesses make sound investment decisions. They do this by evaluating stocks, bonds and other investments,and assessing how or if they can benefit the business. A financial analyst's biggest responsibility is identifying a trend in the business before anyone else. They are the translators of information to the leadership team.

What divides the top financial analysts from the rest? Discover six essential traits of a top-performing financial analyst.

1. thinks like an entrepreneur

Great financial analysts look at their company's key financial and performance measures and think about ways to increase profitability and grow market share. They are driven by a desire to find opportunities and threats and to locate innovative ways to answer key questions. They actively offer their thoughts to key decision makers and enjoy discussions about the business with management and their peers. Colleagues solicit ideas about how to solve problems, and they are often included on cross-functional teams.

2. big picture awareness

The most effective financial analysts don't get stuck in the weeds. Instead, they start from the highest level and work downward until they experience those “Aha!” moments. They are always aware of the company’s big-picture reason for their analyses and can come back to this high level after doing detailed work. Priorities are important. They put their company's mission and objectives first and understand how their role relates.

3. knows how external factors affect the business

The best financial analysts anticipate how changes in the industry and economy will affect their business. They are well-versed in understanding the impact of competitor and government actions, expectations of shareholders, stock analysts and ratings agencies. They create models based on possible outcomes of these factors and share them with senior leadership.

4. numbers storytellers

Top financial analysts can take a report full of numbers and effectively communicate insightful conclusions about the key points within the numbers in a clear, concise manner. This ability is especially important for those who want to move up to top executive positions such as chief financial officer.

5. tech savvy

Top financial analysts regularly collaborate with information technology (IT)professionals 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 tech proficiency. Plus, CompTIA Cloud Essentials covers everything from the business to the IT side of the cloud services.

6. seeks feedback 

Excellent financial analysts understand who their customers are: managers, peers and other departments. They ask how they can provide better service, sometimes even using questionnaires to collect feedback. In addition, they seek frequent interaction with their customers to learn more about their needs.

Increasing competition and a rapid pace of change require companies to have a stronger ability to analyze, predict and improve their financial results. Financial analysts can set themselves apart if they demonstrate superior skills.

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