Pointers for speeding up my research process?

I'm a new post-MBA Analyst at a LO. Reputable firm, good AUM/IP, so obviously want to do well and continue progressing here. So far, feedback from my PMs has been that I do good work and I have gotten one new name in one of our funds thus far which is faster than was expected. That said, I did not have pre-MBA buy side experience so am still trying to get my feet underneath me and develop a more consistent process for looking at new names.

Which brings me to my question: does anyone have any pointers for quickly getting up to speed on a business/evaluating whether or not it's worth doing more work on? For context, I am a generalist so constantly moving across different sectors/trying to get up to speed on new businesses. While I like being able to look at new things and across the market, I feel I do have the disadvantage of not consistently following similar businesses which hinders my ability to get up to speed on a situation quickly or understand dynamics within a given industry. 

I am pretty good at initial screening of a name to see if it's worth spending any time on, but after I get past the easy/obvious "no" it takes me 2-3 days to really understand whether something is worth doing a deeper dive on. During that time, I'll read the K, go through investor day presentation and transcripts, a couple historical Q4 transcripts, maybe some sell-side notes (though I try to avoid them where possible) and lay out historical financials/scratch valuation work.

I can't help but feel that my process is too slow - I know others can sift through 10+ businesses in a week in reasonable detail which would ultimately be my goal as more reps/understanding of different companies = helps me form better judgment.

Is speeding up my process just a matter of getting more reps and ultimately getting faster that way, or am I doing too much work for ideas that may not be actionable? Any exercises you've found helpful to get more efficient? I guess I am trying to balance going deep on names that may not be obviously actionable on the surface but ultimately become interesting after doing more work vs. sifting through tons of stuff looking for things that are more obvious on the surface. Any pointers those of you who are more experienced in the AM/HF world have would be much appreciated.

 

Ah, the age-old question of how to speed up the research process. It's a tricky one, but I've got a few pointers that might help you out:

  1. Focus on Key Information: When you're reading through a company's 10-K or other financial documents, try to focus on the most important information. This includes the company's business model, its competitive position, and its financial health. Don't get bogged down in the details - you can always go back and dig deeper if the company passes your initial screening.

  2. Use Reliable Sources: While sell-side notes can be useful, they should not be your only source of information. Try to use a variety of sources, including company reports, industry reports, and reputable financial news outlets. This will give you a more balanced view of the company and its prospects.

  3. Develop a System: Try to develop a systematic approach to your research. This could involve creating a checklist of key factors to consider, or using a spreadsheet to track and compare different companies. A systematic approach can help you to be more efficient and ensure that you don't overlook important information.

  4. Practice, Practice, Practice: Like any skill, research takes practice. The more companies you research, the faster and more efficient you will become. So don't be discouraged if you're not as fast as you'd like to be - just keep at it, and you'll get there.

  5. Ask for Feedback: Don't be afraid to ask your PMs for feedback on your research process. They may be able to provide valuable insights and suggestions on how to improve.

Remember, the goal is not just to be fast, but to be thorough and accurate. It's better to take a little extra time to do your research properly than to rush through it and miss important information. Good luck!

Sources: AM vs HF: The Business of Our Business, Tips on being ruthless/efficient with research?

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.
 

I would recommend trying factor screening. For instance if you want to find potential bargain deals, then you could screen for value stocks (ie, stocks with the bottom 25% quartile in P/E). Or if you could screen for profitability via top 25% quartile stocks in ROE, etc.

Essentially, screening for stocks based on ratios that you would ideally seek in a good investment can efficiently narrow down your universe search.

 

I already do this, but so does everyone else. I am trying to speed up my idea filtering / research process so I can sift through a wider range of ideas that wouldn’t be picked up in a screen. Lots of businesses out there that wouldn’t screen well but are cheap, and arguably more likely to generate alpha for that reason IMO.

 

I second this. Using sell-side, rating agencies and providers like CreditSights if you're in liquid credit saves you a huge amount of time in terms of getting a decent idea of what the company does, key risks, etc. You might even be able to get them to send you their models as well which you can adjust on your side.

Especially as you become more experienced and PM-like, you simply don't have the time to dig into everything yourself but have a HUGE amount of resources that you should use to your advantage.

 

I have access to sell side models already but basically only use them for historical data.

I don’t like leaning on the sell side for research. Most of it is pretty terrible. It’s helpful for getting the key debates around a stock but I try to avoid getting their narrative in my head vs. independently looking at something.

So far the recommendations in this thread have been to leverage the sell-side and run screens. You guys really think those are adequate for finding alpha? Everyone does those things. No wonder the industry gets a bad rap….

 

I don’t know if this would help… depending on historical ROCE & ROIC, I check whether the long term historical ROCE & ROIC are greater than cost of capital

If ROCE > WACC and ROIC > WACC for over 5-7 years then the idea is worth a try…

I know this is not a leading indicators, and will not catch turnaround stories or value bets… and will require historical data

But it’s a good practice after you have reduced your research universe.

 
Most Helpful

Trying to keep this broad without knowing your strategy but I think focusing on your process and finding some time to for different exercises are a pretty good starting point. 

Refine your process:

1) Grab a notebook/notepad (not scrap), sit down and write your current process in as much detail as possible. If your criteria is US based, market cap between $5-7B with X Margin>15% then write screen for US based, market cap between $5-7B with X Margin>15%. Write everything from initial screen to the order you go through the K and then all the way through your pitch

2) Take some time away and then go back through to see if there are any specific places that you are getting hung up on or anything that isn't a good use of time/maybe duplicated work. If you notice you get stuck on Porters then you know to focus on that. Similarly, if you find that you do the same thing in 2 different places then figure out how to cut one out. If you make any changes then rewrite your process on the next page. 

3) Keep the notebook close by and as you go through more ideas, make sure you follow the process so it becomes second nature and each time you get through it, take some time to review. You'll do it less often as you progress but sitting down and writing will make you think through each step. 

Blind Financial Statement AnalysisThis was something that helped me out a lot and I'll still do from time to time. 

1) Get someone to pick a company, download financials from capiq (5-8 years so you can see trends), delete any identifying info and make sure they don't tell you anything about who it is. 

2) Lock yourself in a room with the statements with a blank excel sheet and set a timer for 3 hours. In that time, go through everything without looking at anything else, look at everything you can (margins, ratios, trends over time, etc.) and try to come up with some kind of narrative with as much detail as you can. For example, if you see 90% gp then you know it's not a grocery store or if there's an acquisition but margins are suppressed then maybe integration is taking too long or it was a bad buy. Have fun with it and see how close you can get to the actual story. 

3) It's a little more time consuming but try to do it every now and then. You'll start to notice that you pick up on new things each time and you'll probably start to get more efficient at getting through your actual ideas. This helped me a lot with being able to pick up on things and see the broader picture faster over time. 

Hope this helps.

 

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