CFA Career Insider Chat: CityScotGirl, Performance Analyst

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By Zee

This is the second post of our new series to 300 Hours – Career Insider Chats,  where we interview some of our readers, and get an inside look into their careers, as well as what drives them to take up the CFA challenge.

You’ll learn how it’s like to be at their jobs, what it takes to get the job, and how to balance that kind of lifestyle with something as demanding as the CFA exams.

Today we sit with CityScotGirl from Edinburgh, UK, and find out how it’s like to be a Performance Analyst.

So what’s your official job title, and where do you work? 
My job title is ‘Performance Analyst’ and I work in the investment analytics department of a global financial services firm. I’m based in Edinburgh, UK.

What does  Performance Analyst mean? Can you explain what you and your team do in more detail?
We provide monthly, quarterly and annual performance reports on the portfolios of our clients. These mainly show how the client’s portfolio is performing relative to the benchmark that the client has specified.

So who do they tend to hire into your team?
Many of my colleagues have prior backgrounds in accounting or fund pricing. That seems to be the way to go. I too worked for a short while in fund pricing because I figured that would help me in getting my current role.

What would an aspiring candidate need to have to be great for a role like yours?
A great passion for printing many many sheets of paper! No seriously, there are still so many checks that are done with paper and pen. Also, you need to have the ‘passion’, if you can call it that, for doing lots of tedious, nit-picking, data-entry and manual amendment type of tasks.

How’s the interview for the job like?
This was an internal move for me, so my experience may not be similar to that of an external candidate. The interview was mainly behavioral — there weren’t any technical questions. It lasted for about 45 minutes. (Read our article here for more tips on interviewing)

I see. Can you describe a typical work day in your life?
The day goes by in endless quality checks of performance reports produced by our off-shored site, painstakingly loading data to our in-house performance measurement system, updating and maintaining benchmarks, repairing and maintaining the output views of reports, closing or opening new portfolios as required, chasing external fund managers for their performance data for comparison, trying to reconcile big differences, and so on.

Apart from this I also answer my share of queries received from our colleagues at the off-shored site about problems they may be having with generating their performance reports, such as very strange returns showing up in some asset categories, etc.

Wow, that sounds like a lot of work! How are the hours like, on average?
The hours are quite good. I come in close to 9 am, and usually leave before 5.30 pm, so no complaints there. However, we’ve had a slight reduction in our team recently, so that might mean longer hours. I’ll have to see.

That’s not bad. Is it good money? What’s the range of base and total compensation in your industry?
Good money — well, no! I do not think I am paid very highly. It is sort of at the lowest end of the range. From a search for similar jobs in my country, I infer that the range of compensation is £26,500 to £40,000 per year.

Are there any extra perks, monetary or otherwise?
Yes, we get private medical insurance, an assured number of holidays, various types of life and disability insurance, and also an annual bonus if the company exceeds certain targets. The bonus is not guaranteed though, and when I have got it it has been a very small sum — a few hundred pounds usually.

What is the career progression like in your role? What are the usual or target exit opportunites?
I don’t really know. I’m trying to figure it out myself. Others I know have left for better paid jobs at asset management firms. My department has a pretty low turnover in general, so I don’t have a lot of cases to go on. But I wish to move to something a bit more interesting as a role.

What would be your advice to aspiring candidates targeting your role or industry? 
Work in pricing, get the IMC (Investment Management Certificate offered by the CFA Society of the UK) or try to pass one level of the CFA, or do the Claritas Certificate (this is offered by the CFA Institute and is similar to the IMC). These will give you a bit of grounding in the concepts, and also show to employers that you are serious about working in this field. Work experience in fund accounting would help too.

Any qualifications that stand out?
I would say the CFA certainly, perhaps the CIPM and FRM too.

So how did you learn about the CFA exams, and why did you decide to go for it?
I learnt about the CFA exams by hearing my husband and his friend talk about it. Then I had a look at the syllabus myself and decided that it had a relevant range of topics for the kind of work I wanted to do eventually — that is investment analysis and research mainly.

It must have been tough preparing for the CFA exams with your job and social life. How did you balance that?
Well, I don’t have a hugely active social group that I am part of, so it was my interaction with my husband that was most affected. It was quite stressful to be sure!

Did your firm support you in your CFA effort – perhaps some study leave, or sponsoring your study materials?
I did not ask for any financial support as I didn’t want to be beholden to my employer. For CFA Level 2 I asked if I could get any study leave and they gave me one day. The rest of the days I took from my personal holiday allowance. I bought all the study materials with my own money.

Wow, that’s real dedication on your part! Did you study on work days? How was your study schedule like?
Yes, though not on every work day, and not for very long. I would plan to begin studying in the evening around 8 pm, but would dawdle and eventually start at around 9 pm. I usually managed a bit more than an hour (taking into account breaks and so on).

Has taking the CFA exams helped your career?
I am hoping that now, when I look for interesting roles, it will help me in my job search.

CityScotGirl is a mild-mannered office monkey by day, and a mild-mannered internet addict by night! She reads all sorts of blogs and drops by many social media sites. In fact she wastes huge amounts of time pottering around on the Internet. Apart from that she likes to read mystery fiction, and trying out new recipes.

If you’d like to contribute to a Career Insider Chat, let us know in the comments below!


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