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Generally it is the responsibility of those with research jobs in finance to investigate the viability of investing in different types of financial assets and make clear and unbiased recommendations on the action that should be taken by investors.
Also known as analysts, researchers usually focus on a certain type of asset, either equity or fixed income, and within that on a certain industry sector such as pharmaceuticals, technology, oil and gas, or retail.
The Role of the Equity Research Analyst
The key role of the equity research analyst is investigation. The analyst must gather as much clear and accurate data about the particular company’s equity as possible and use this information to provide a recommended course of action. This could be to 'buy' the shares, 'hold' or 'sell'.
Such roles are found in many key investment banks and stockbroking firms in London and across the globe, but are also available within independent research companies that offer such a service to third party institutions.
Historically, the majority of equity researcher recommendations would have been issued in a written format.
However in recent years, it has become more common for equity research to be presenting their findings directly to potential or existing clients, playing a key role in a far more sophisticated sales process.
The Role of a Fixed Income Research Analyst
The ranking provided by a fixed income research analyst focuses on the ability of a bond issuer to pay the interest and repay the principal in accordance with the contractual terms of the bond issue – which are detailed in the bond’s prospectus.
Such individuals can work for ratings agencies such as Moody's or Standard & Poor’s. Or they may work within investment banks carrying out the same service for internal and selected external customers.
As with equity research, fixed income research analysts will focus on one particular sector and this is usually dictated by the ‘grade’ of the debt. For example a focus on investment grade bonds that are relatively safe or on higher risk ‘junk’ bonds that can deliver higher returns.