Have you ever wondered what a career as a research analyst looks like? What do research analysts do? What exactly is being researched and analysed? To provide some more insight into developing a career in Research, Amara interviewed Dolapo Oni, Head of Energy Research at Ecobank Capital – a subsidiary of EcoBank.
APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background?
DO: I studied Economics at undergraduate and postgraduate level at the Universities of Uyo and Ibadan, Nigeria. After my undergraduate degree, I worked as a staff writer for a company that published a magazine called ‘Networth.’ My real work started after my Masters when I joined Agusto & Co. Ltd, a credit ratings and research firm. This is where I really started my affair with research. Although my role as a staff writer had kicked things off in the right direction, I discovered my passion for information gathering, analysis and reporting. I was with Agusto for about four and a half years before joining Ecobank’s Research team. I am currently the Head of our Energy Research desk and have been with the bank for about 4 years.
I know there are different kinds of research analysts – marketing, decision support, business data – please could you shed some light on what a research analyst does?
The key responsibility a research analyst has is to provide decision makers a sound and balanced perspective on economic, industry or market developments – information and data that enables stakeholders make good business decisions. This has huge importance in the banking industry where my bosses have to make decisions to lend billions of naira to customers for a project or transaction. Poor information can lead to huge losses!
Some people say an analyst is someone who answers the question ‘Why?’ . I’ll add to that definition the question ‘So what?’
I feel it is the research analyst’s duty to look at all the angles possible. On a day to day basis, this means you have to identify what your key markets, data sets and information sources are and track them. You need to stay on top of information and this may also require developing strategic relationships within your industry to obtain information that may not make it into mass media. You need to issue strategic notes and reports in clear, concise terms on why developments are significant/noteworthy and what the implications are for interested parties.
When and how did you decide you wanted to work as a research analyst and what steps did you take to get there?
I made the decision to work in research during my time at Agusto and this led me to spend more time reading materials written by other research analysts from banks, consulting firms, investment houses that were regarded to be the best in the industry. I started reading quite widely about my industry and the economy.
In your opinion, what are the important skills and personal attributes required to excel as a research analyst?
I think patience is a key attribute. You need to be meticulous to cross check your data, and analysis because it is very easy to overlook something important. Especially when you have a responsibility to issue recommendations to clients or your bank on transactions, you have to cover all angles to the best of your ability. A research analyst must also have a wide breadth of knowledge. This is not only because developments are increasingly interlinked – e.g. political climate in Nigeria – but also because you gain analytical insights from following events that occur in other sectors.
Can you describe a typical working day? What do you like the most and least about your job?
My typical working day starts at 9am when I arrive at the office. I use two laptops and an extra screen. This is a fall back of my earlier career in asset management when I was a trader. The three screens enable me have a view of key websites in real time. The first thing I do in the morning is open all the databases and websites I track to observe what’s new, making the news or set to happen. I like to keep the mornings free to monitor the markets and go through my market alerts. My team sends out some local intelligence reports in the morning so I need to quickly look at those as well before dissemination. I map out all the activities I have planned for the day so I can tick them off as I complete them. Mornings are also typically when I do media interviews either with local or international news outlets such as Channels TV or CNBC.
I spend my mornings focused on information gathering to enable me start my report writing in the afternoon. By mid-day, I’m writing reports and responding to requests for information from various part of the bank. Once my reports are ready, I give a colleague to review and then send for publishing. Briefing meetings with my internal businesses also tend to happen in the afternoon/evening. So at about 4pm, you could find me heading over to the Head office to meet the Heads of the Oil & Gas and Power desks, visit the Treasury or other Business heads to brief them or get some information on a client/customer from them.
What do you wish someone else had told you before you embarked on your professional journey?
That I should spend more time learning programming, financial modelling and improving my writing skills. I wish someone equally told me that I would meet a lot of bosses who could discourage me on my career journey but to focus and ensure I stay on track.
What advice would you share with anyone interested in developing a career as a research analyst?
I would encourage the person to pursue a good numeric degree and develop strong analytical skills. I would encourage the person to learn to pay special attention to details and develop a passionate curiosity for information about industries, economies, countries and people.
Do you have any mentors?
I regard a number of people as mentors from afar. People like Razia Khan of Standard Chartered Bank, Bismarck Rewane of Financial Derivatives, my immediate past bosses Paul-Harry Aithnard and Rolake Akinkugbe. I read a lot from John Maxwell, Robert Kiyosaki, Brian Tracy and Tom Peters also.
How important has having a mentor been for you?
You learn faster with mentors. They’ve made the mistakes and learnt the lessons. A mentor can help you clarify your vision. A mentor can help you discover your strengths. A mentor can inspire you to pursue goals you never thought you could achieve. When I started working with Rolake, she told me something I’ll never forget. She said “I’m just two years older than you. Do you really think you couldn’t be doing anything I’m doing right now?” At the time, I was just an analyst who had been writing one or two reports a year and some rating reports too. As she said this, she was just about to go on stage at a global event to speak about the African energy markets!
What achievements are you most proud of? Have you made any mistakes you are happy to share and what did you learn from them?
I have been instrumental to my bank becoming well known in Nigeria as a top bank for energy, oil and gas financing information through my work with the media. I have assisted the bank in identifying dangerous transactions. I speak regularly at international conferences and to leading media houses around the world – CNN, CCTV, Bloomberg, CNBCAfrica, Reuters, Wall Street Journal etc. on a regular basis.
I have made mistakes. I have written poorly researched reports that arrived at wrong conclusions. In one instance, instead of calling a company to verify information, I used desktop research to compensate. Consequently the report was refuted and it brought some embarrassment to the company. I have learnt to make all the right checks before issuing a report because you never know how far it can go.
I know you are active on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter) – how important do you think social media is to professionals trying to develop their career?
The world is getting more advanced and more people, including world and business leaders are on social media. I think social media provides visibility to employers and people who might require your expertise. This is why I think its key you use it to develop your brand and not just for social events or posting pictures! You need visibility to attract opportunities.
Finally and just as important, how do you maintain a sense of balance while juggling your different roles – both personal and professional?
Its never easy. You just have to make out time for both. This also means you need to have an understanding partner, who understands that the price you have to pay to achieve your career goals will sometimes involve time away from the family. You also have to make sure that you do make time for family and do fun things together.
We are very grateful to Dolapo for making time in his schedule to share his insight into a not so well understood professional path.
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