Overview of financial modeling skills
This free guide outlines the top 10 most important financial modeling skills required to be a world-class financial analyst. Financial modeling is the art of building a dynamic tool (an Excel model) that can be used to evaluate investment opportunities, mergers & acquisitions (M&A), capital raising, or to assess a company’s historical and forecasted financial performance.
The most important financial modeling skills are:
- A solid understanding of accounting
- Strong Excel skills
- Knowing how to link the 3 financial statements
- Understanding how to build a forecast
- A logical framework for problem-solving
- Attention to detail
- Ability to distill large amounts of data into a simple format
- An eye for design and esthetics
- Clear presentation skills
- The ability to easily zoom in on details, and zoom out to high-level strategy
Each of these financial modeling skills will be broken down in further detail below. As the image below shows, these skills can be divided into 3 categories: accounting/finance, Excel, and problem-solving/logic/design.
Top 10 Financial modeling skills:
#1 Accounting skills
In order to build a financial model it’s important to have a solid understanding of accounting fundamentals. This includes concepts like the matching principle, accruals, revenue recognition, non-cash items like depreciation, amortization, and more. You need to have enough accounting skills to understand how to read financial statements, how at dissect them, and how to build them back up again.
#2 Excel skills
Strong Excel skills are critical for financial modeling, and it can be more of an art than a science. You’ll need to know all the main keyboard shortcuts to help save time and build models as quickly as possible. You’ll also need to know all the main formulas and functions to perform calculations and financial analysis.
#3 Linking the three financial statements
Another skill that’s very important is being able to link the 3 financial statements. This means taking historical financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement) and dynamically linking them together in Excel. For example, connecting net income on the income statement to retained earnings on the balance sheet. This can be one of the trickiest skills.
#4 Forecasting skills
Being good at forecasting is an art and a science. An analyst can use regression analysis to predict future results based on historical results. Don’t let the science of regression give you false confidence though, as it still requires making major assumptions about future unknowns. In addition, qualitative factors such as the management team and culture have to be taken into account. Learn more in CFI’s forecasting course.
#5 Problem-solving skills
A good financial analyst has the ability to think logically and in a very organized manner. When building a financial model it’s important to follow a logical flow of information so that other users can easily understand what you’ve done when they jump in your Excel file.
For more on what it takes to be a great financial analyst, check out our free guide outline our proprietary process called The Analyst Trifecta.
#6 Attention to detail
This is an absolutely essential skill for financial modeling. Given the vast amount of information and intricate nature of a complex model, if you don’t have attention to detail, you’ll unfortunately never make it as a financial modeler.
Check out our financial modeling courses to see the level of detail that’s required.
#7 Simplification of complex information
One of the hallmarks of a someone with great financial modeling skills is their ability to distill large amounts of complex information into a simple format. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.
Check out Advanced Excel Skills Course to help you simplify complex information.
#8 Design skills
One of the least discussed yet most important financial modeling skills is having an eye for design and aesthetics. A good model is easy to follow, and easy on the eyes – it should have clean formatting, beautiful charts, and graphs, and look professional. This is one of the 3 pillars of our Analyst Trifecta method, which we outline in our guide on how to be a great financial analyst.
#9 Presentation skills
A good financial modeler will be able to create an effective PowerPoint Presentation and Pitchbook to communicate the results of the model to managers, executives, or clients.
#10 Detail vs high-level strategy
A great analyst has the rare ability of easily zooming into extreme levels of detail in a model and quickly zoom out to high-level business strategy. Most people are stronger at one over the other, however, some people have the rare gift of being good at both.
Examples of financial model
Here are some screenshots of example financial models from CFI’s online financial modeling courses:
Different types of financial models
We’ve outlined in detail the various types of financial models, which include:
- 3 statement model
- DCF analysis
- LBO model
- M&A model
- Sensitivity analysis model
- And many more
Another way to get acquainted with the different types of financial models is to purchase all our financial modeling templates and work through them yourself.
More financial modeling resources
We hope you now have a thorough understanding of the various financial modeling skills required to be a world-class financial analyst. You may want to check out some of our other popular resources, including: