You are an Analyst, a warrior shrouded in mystery and feared for your ruthlessness with Excel. Your actions can throw Board meetings into chaos, and your existence will shape the company during this pivotal moment in history.

[Inspired by the Assassin’s Creed]

Finance is the language of managing resources as investments.  It addresses three questions.  First, the investment decision considers, “How do we screen, value and rank our investment alternatives?”  Second, the financing decision asks, “How do we pay for this investment?”  Third, the exit or sale decision asks, “How and when is the appropriate time – during good markets or bad – to reduce our position or sell the asset to maximize profits?”

Investment objectives matter.  Analysts use finance to compare projects and identify those that satisfy the predetermined criteria of clients or managers.  This facilitates the investment decision by screening out those that we can set aside, and those that we should consider further.  For example, for timberland investors, a preliminary screen may include geography, deal size, information quality, and basic financial metrics. If the potential investment satisfies the initial screen, then managers can allocate the human and financial resources required to investigate further.

When serving as analysts, we make investment recommendations.  It is our responsibility to be transparent and truthful in our assumptions and analysis, and practical and clear in communicating recommendations and ideas.  For me, this mean analytical and research professionals should also be able to differentiate and explain the pros and cons of alternate approaches to their work.

As analysts and researchers, how can we better support our firms and clients?  Over time, I have found few methods as effective for increasing analytic rigor and reducing errors as repeated application of financial tools in a range of cases to highlight the variety of unique questions and attributes associated with different assets. Through these trials, we develop the context and intuition to provide valued guidance.