Equity Research vs Investment Banking

Learn all about the differences between equity research and investment banking with our CFI career profiles.

Equity Research and Investment Banking

When looking at a career in the capital markets it’s important to understand if you’re a better for investment banking, or equity research.  Both offer excellent work experience and great pay, but choosing one over the other really comes down to personality more than anything else.

What do equity research analysts do?

Research analysts cover a group of stocks (coverage universe), typically within one industry, and publish reports with their recommendation on whether investors should buy, sell, or hold (overweight, underweight, market weight) the stock.  They typically spend time talking with the management of the companies they cover, building financial models, and communicating investment updates to investors and the public.

What type of personality is suited to equity research?

The type of person who’s suited to equity research is someone who enjoys writing, routine, financial analysis, and is introverted.

  • Writing: research analysts have write a lot of stuff.  They publish lengthy reports (initiating coverage), periodic updates (quarterly results), and special notes (changes in management, acquisitions, new issues, etc.).
  • Routine: a lot of what research analysts do is routine based.  They have an earnings calendar of when all the companies they cover report their results and they issue reports around those dates.  They can also plan a schedule of when they will initiate coverage of new stocks.
  • Financial analysis: there is a great deal of financial modeling, industry analysis, and number crunching in equity research.
  • Introvert: it’s not to say that research analysts are actually introverts, but there is much less of a sales component or client relationships to manage as there is in investment banking and sales & trading.  You should enjoy working quietly and independently if you want to be a research analyst or associate.

What is the lifestyle like?

Research analysts work long hours, but not nearly as long as investment banking.  They typically start earlier around 7 or 8 am and work until about 8 pm.  You should plan on 12 hour days as being fairly routine, whereas investment bankers should plan on 15+ hours.  While there is lots of work in equity research, it is less volatile and erratic than investment banking where there is no predictability about deal flow.

What is the compensation like?

Starting base salaries are comparable for research and investment banking, but there is a large difference in the bonus structure.  While junior investment banking positions can earn 50-100% of their base in the form of a bonus, in research it could be closer to 0-25%.  Check out our compensation guide for more details.

The reason for the lower bonuses is because equity research is often views as a cost center as opposed to a profit center for the banks.  This may be true but equity research plays a critical role in helping other divisions make money.  Having a reputation for high quality coverage increases your chances of leading an IPO or follow on offering and often rewarded by investment managers by making their trades through that bank.

Which has more interesting work?

That’s entirely subjective.  In equity research you working with publicly available information, speak frequently with management, and prepare recommendations.  In investment banking you are often dealing with non-public information, work in deals and transactions, and have more of a sales angle.  Both are super interesting – it’s about which is a better personality fit for you.  Both require a lot of financial modeling and both can be very rewarding.