Afua Executive Director/Vice President, Gaming & Lodging Global Investment Research Division, New York
Helping to produce differentiated research that ultimately leads to the right stock call is a particularly rewarding part of my job.
I work in the Global Investment Research division. I cover the gaming, lodging, leisure and rental car sectors. Our primary responsibility as equity analysts is to make stock calls that will generate returns (or alpha as we call it) for our clients. I am responsible for updating and refreshing the company models we use to forecast earnings and other financial metrics. We also write notes about stocks both company specific and industry pieces and we communicate our ideas to the sales force, the trading desk and to our institutional clients. It is extremely important that we stay visible and always communicate our ideas clearly and stress to our clients how and why we have a differentiated point of view than our competitors.
The gaming, lodging and leisure sectors are very interesting. But aside from that, I would say the process of analyzing companies, and coming out with a view on these companies is very interesting to me. To love research, you should love the analytical and investigative part of the business because, as we commonly say here in the department, it doesn’t matter what sector(s) you cover, you should enjoy researching companies.
There are a lot of opportunities available at the firm. The biggest determinants to making the best out of these opportunities are doing a good job in your current role and raising your hand when you see an opportunity arise. In some situations it helps to put yourself in a position where people will think of you when an opportunity comes up.
My work is extremely team based. I work closely with a team of four other people: a managing director, a vice president, an associate and one other analyst. We always run ideas past the entire team before sending anything out and use “we” and “us” when we talk about our work with clients or others outside the firm. Each person brings something unique to the table. I especially appreciate that as a team, we constantly challenge and question one another. I think this ensures that at the end of the day, whenever we go out to our clients with an idea, it has been vetted amongst the team and we are comfortable with our decisions.
Our job is very market driven and our day-to-day activities can vary dramatically based on what is going on in the markets. But it mostly involves tasks such as updating earnings models, writing notes and interacting and communicating our ideas to the sales force and our external clients. We always try to have some longer term projects on our plate as well because a big part of being a research analyst is having a compelling investment theme and looking for ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. I think what is always interesting about coming up with thematic pieces is the idea of the unknown. We can start out in one direction and end up in a totally different direction simply because the data and our analysis led us there. I think finding ways to generate alpha through this process is pretty exciting.
Helping to produce differentiated research that ultimately leads to the right stock call is a particularly rewarding part of my job. At the analyst level, just being able to provide material to my manager that is helpful and interesting to him that he is able use in his interactions with clients is also rewarding because it helps you see your value-add very clearly.
I came to Goldman Sachs through the Scholars for Educational Opportunity (SEO) career program. The SEO career program is a summer internship program for talented college students of color. SEO places students with one of the numerous employers they partner with. When applying to SEO, I specified that I wanted to work in the research division based on what I had read about research and how it fit my skill set and personality.
I think one of the first things that struck me about Goldman Sachs was the people and their level of talent, intelligence and drive. Since the first day of orientation, I can honestly say I have learned something new each day. Whether it was something small and trivial or something large and important, I have always found my mind challenged and engaged with those I work with. This environment drives me to be “on my game” and ready to step up and contribute.
I definitely did not have an idea I would wind up here at Goldman Sachs. I am from Ghana and I came to the US for college in 2004, with no idea what to expect or even if I would thrive in this new environment (I was dreading the thought of my first winter). Even more importantly, my college was a liberal arts one with virtually no exposure to the finance field and with few contacts or resources to service students interested in finance. During an economics class, my professor mentioned an investment club and I decided to check it out. I joined the club in my sophomore year where, as a trustee, I was researching companies and pitching stocks we could buy and sell in our portfolio. I knew I enjoyed it but even then I was not sure this was something I wanted to do. It was not until my internship at Goldman Sachs in the research division, where I found myself thinking that this was something I could definitely see myself doing for the next few years. I credit the exposure I got during my internship, the level of interaction I had with employees at the firm and also the project I focused on during my 10 week internship with helping me to feel like this was indeed a career path I was very interested in pursuing.
I would advise anyone interested in a career in finance to join a club or an association in college that exposes them to some aspect of finance. If that is not possible, reading about the field and speaking to people who have experience in the field is also very helpful. Anyone interested in this field should absolutely try to pursue an internship in finance as many times as possible. One of the things I did was browse websites (like vault.com) and research “A day in the life of…” I definitely found that helpful and was able to eliminate some divisions in the bigger finance framework through that methodology.