From a Paper Mill to Call Centre to Back Office IT to Equity Research

Mod Note (Andy) - as the year comes to an end we're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #47. This one was originally posted 3/20/2015.

I posted this in a reply to an earlier thread but thought it may be helpful as it's own topic.

I have recently made this jump so maybe this can help. Sorry for the long post but it's all relevant to how I made it to front office. Here's the summary: your back office job doesn't mean shit and they don't give a fuck about your projects or whatever. You have to know the job you want and investments inside and out with relevant ideas they can make money off. In the 4 hours of interviews I had I spent less than 2 mins talking about my back office experience. Do not bring it up first because most front office people will immediately check out mentally when you bring it up and you have no chance, regardless of how good you may actually be.

Firstly I am in Toronto and the front office employment market is not very optimistic at the moment. My story may not be applicable to those outside of Toronto.

I always knew I wanted to get into Equity Research, sell side or buy side. since undergrad I wrote many ER reports myself on stocks and always loved doing it. My stocks also performed relatively well and that fed my determination to keep at it.

I graduated UG in May 2008 from a non target school with mediocre overall grades but one of the highest in my finance classes. My parents just moved to the US at the time and my mom was sick with terminal cancer so to help her I went with them. I took up a job in the accounting department at a paper mill while there. They offered me the controller position before I left but I turned it down knowing my ultimate passion was ER. The salary was good relative to how easy the job is most of the time, let's say 80k base.

Afterwards I came back to Toronto, just wrapped up CFA level 1. With my background I had no success with landing FO interviews. Money was getting tight so I needed something to pay the bills. I took a job at the call centre for a global mutual fund company, less than half the offer I got to stay at the paper company. I kept up with my reports and through this job I was able to meet local PMs that came for presentations. They helped me refine my research and report writing skills by giving tons of feedback.

A job came up in the data management department. I got the opportunity to learn bloomberg and talk with global PMs and traders for support and system project work while finishing the CFA. Did this for 3 years while looking for a job in ER.

I kept at my reports and meeting with local PMs. Last year one of them really liked one of my ideas. We spoke at length about it then he went to meet the management team in Europe. He then bought a block of shares. The same day he made the buy, an analyst position opened on his team. I thought this is it! I interviewed with another junior PM and she didn't seem all that impressed with what I had done. They told me to give another idea so I did. They said they had a bad experience in that industry and will never buy into it again. I tried to explain why it was uniquely different than other industry participants but they didn't agree (that stock is up over 100% when I recommended it a year and a half ago). Then they told me they wanted someone with south east Asian experience, whatever.

Had interviews in sell side ER after, always heard the same response: we like you and you accomplished a lot by yourself but here's this guy from another bank who already covered the same stocks. I kept at it and just landed a job in ER at a boutique in Toronto. applied through my local CFA society, no connections at this shop. I mentioned almost nothing in my application about what I actually did in data management. I just mentioned I worked with senior PMs and traders as well as the reports I wrote for the PMs. This time they wanted some one with a strong background without direct ER experience. I beat out people with top marks at local target schools with MBAs.

The point is you have to know investments, be confident, and pitch profitable ideas. Your school, CFA, and back office job doesn't amount to shit.

Anyway that's my long drawn out story, sorry if it's too long but hope it helps someone who was in my position

Region: 
All Europe
Canada

Comments (29)

Mar 8, 2015

i'm in a similar situation as you were. trying to write my own reports while taking the CFA levels and working in the back office. i only completed one report and it has received mixed feedback from what little network i have. congrats on making it, it definitely is a grind. i know that a lot of people (i used to be one of them) reads these 'success stories' and feels inspired and hopeful but you really don't know how painful and how big of a grind the OP went thru.

i am pretty much planning on b-school at this point.

Mar 9, 2015

I was looking a b school too really closely but at the end of the day I didn't feel like there was any program that would make me better at researching stocks so I decided not to go. What kind of feedback did you get on your report and from who?

    • 1
Mar 9, 2015
gman5556:

I was looking a b school too really closely but at the end of the day I didn't feel like there was any program that would make me better at researching stocks so I decided not to go. What kind of feedback did you get on your report and from who?

I also doubt bschool will help me be a better stock picker but I think it would be easier to get into a target program and then enter a sell side ER gig that way.

The report I made I sent out to a few analysts I've been in touch with. They pretty much said it was decent across the board, one replied his firm's research on the company. The only buy side guy I got it in front of is a family friend and he also said it was decent and would be happy to read more. I am going to keep at it and hopefully improve but I seem to be many hundreds of hours from producing anything that could spark interest.

Mar 9, 2015

Love your story. Well done.

Mar 11, 2015

Thanks!

Mar 11, 2015
Flake:

Love your story. Well done.

Thanks Flake! Your interviews on here helped a ton in the preparation.

Mar 9, 2015

Out of curiosity, in general, what is the range of market caps you are generally pitching for (like mid-cap or upper end of small caps)?

Mar 11, 2015
Loki777:

Out of curiosity, in general, what is the range of market caps you are generally pitching for (like mid-cap or upper end of small caps)?

It ranged from micro small cap (less than 300m) to mid range mid caps (10-15b). not that I have an aversion to large cap I just found it harder to find a large cap that the audience didn't already know about.

Mar 9, 2015

Hi gmann5556, I am from toronto too, this is great advice.

besides connecting with PMs through your job, did you connect with any through cold emails/calls/linkedin?

Do you mind talking offline? via email?

Thanks

Mar 11, 2015
JSparrow:

Hi gmann5556, I am from toronto too, this is great advice.

besides connecting with PMs through your job, did you connect with any through cold emails/calls/linkedin?

Do you mind talking offline? via email?

Thanks

When I was in undergrad we would have experienced PMs and the like come in, guys who got in the industry from the let 80s early 90s. All the time they would say something like "well I finished UG and called this firm and said I wanted to learn more about investing and they put me through to a senior person". I thought ok that's a good strategy. Tried out cold calling/emailing and it got nowhere especially if you call reception. Years ago I got an interview at BMO IB because I found contact info online and cold called. Most of the time it doesn't work. Definitely a negative on Linked In too for me. people in the industry generally won't connect on linked in unless they know you or someone you have in common.

    • 1
Mar 11, 2015

Impressive story

Mar 11, 2015

great story man congrats!

Mar 12, 2015

Great post! I'm in a similar situation too.

Writing research reports, but I'm keeping my coverage in line with two specific industries. Stuff that my former job/career revolved around.

What did your coverage universe consist of in terms of industry/sector, and what is your group covering now? Do you suggest covering a diverse set, or focusing on a single sector?

Mar 12, 2015
Freshtildeath:

Great post! I'm in a similar situation too.

Writing research reports, but I'm keeping my coverage in line with two specific industries. Stuff that my former job/career revolved around.

What did your coverage universe consist of in terms of industry/sector, and what is your group covering now? Do you suggest covering a diverse set, or focusing on a single sector?

So I have a generalist approach and my target audience was the same so there was no preference in terms of sector. That being said I would find companies where I knew the products already or were fairly straight forward to learn. I would go into a deep dive of the industry when I felt the stock was interesting enough to pursue further after some ratio screens and common sense. Given that it was in addition to my full time job it would take months of constant industry research. The industries I looked at were Euro grocery retail, lng shipping, lpg shipping, computer hardware, and high end auto parts.

But it all depends on what your target audience is looking for. Good idea to stick with sectors you are already familiar with. I like businesses that are really simple and market leaders that are trading at a discount due to some external market factor. I will be on Special Situations which is great for me personally because I like looking at different companies and sectors.

    • 1
Mar 12, 2015

Way to go, great story!

Mar 12, 2015

Reason #489 why I pay no attention to sell side "analysts"

Mar 12, 2015

congrats, definitely one of the more interesting stories / post titles i've ever seen

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Mar 12, 2015

double post.

Mar 12, 2015

long story, short...keep at it people...you work hard, be persistent, you'll eventually be recognized.

Mar 12, 2015

Love to see a guy work hard and pay off

Mar 12, 2015

Great story. Hard work truly pays off. Congratulations!

Mar 13, 2015
gman5556:

I mentioned almost nothing in my application about what I actually did in data management. I just mentioned I worked with senior PMs and traders as well as the reports I wrote for the PMs.

IMO this kind of a bold move and very close to being a bit dishonest but im glad it worked out for you. there's a potential for backfire tho.

for example when we hire ppl to our dept we hate them sugar coating their irrelevant experience.

Mar 13, 2015

Yeaaah baby! I love this!

Mar 13, 2015
gman5556:

I kept at my reports and meeting with local PMs. Last year one of them really liked one of my ideas. We spoke at length about it then he went to meet the management team in Europe. He then bought a block of shares. The same day he made the buy, an analyst position opened on his team. I thought this is it! I interviewed with another junior PM and she didn't seem all that impressed with what I had done. They told me to give another idea so I did. They said they had a bad experience in that industry and will never buy into it again. I tried to explain why it was uniquely different than other industry participants but they didn't agree (that stock is up over 100% when I recommended it a year and a half ago). Then they told me they wanted someone with south east Asian experience, whatever.

Wonderful success story.

Was the firm looking at candidates with experience covering South East Asian markets? And were there any language preferences?

Mar 15, 2015

Great post man. Very inspirational. I too, am interested in going to the hedge fund/Asset Management space. I had stints in fund of fund and private banking during internships and am now working for bank but am looking for a research analyst role in the fund industry. I'm also studying for the CFA so in a way this post inspired me. Good luck ahead!

Mar 15, 2015

Wow great job OP!

Mar 19, 2015
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