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Investment Banking vs Equity Research

If you are considering a career in investment banking, you should definitely also take a look at banking’s slightly less glamorous cousin, equity research.

So what is equity research all about?

Equity Research analysts closely analyze small groups of stocks in order to provide insightful investment ideas and recommendations to the firm’s salesforce, traders, and directly to institutional investors and increasingly to the general investing public. They communicate formally via research reports that place Buy, Sell, Hold ratings on the companies they cover.

Since Equity Research Analysts generally focus on a small group of stocks (5-15) within particular industries or geographic regions, they become experts in the specific companies and industry or “coverage universe” that they analyze.  Analysts need to know everything about their coverage universe in order to make investment recommendations.  As such, analysts constantly communicate with the management teams of their companies under coverage, maintain comprehensive financial models about these companies, and quickly digest and respond to new information that hit the tape, communicating new developments and ideas to the investment Bank’s sales force, traders, directly to institutional clients, to investment bankers, and to the general investment public over he phone, directly through to the trading floor through an intercom system and over the phone.

So are you a  good fit for equity research?

If you enjoy writing, being on the phone with clients and getting to know management teams, while at he same time doing a lot of financial modeling and financial analysis, and getting home at a reasonable hour (9pm vs. 2am) Equity Research might be for you. Research associates (that would be your title coming in as an undergrad) go through similar training to that of sales & trading analysts.  After 2-3 months of corporate finance, accounting, capital markets, research associates are assigned to a group, led by senior analyst with anywhere between o to 3 other junior associates already under him and begin to cover a group of stocks (usually 5-15) within a specific industry or region.


At larger investment banks, both IB analysts and ER associates start with the same base compensation. However, investment banking bonuses range from a 10-50% higher than equity research at the entry level.  In fact, the difference at some firms is even more acute.  There are rumors that equity research bonuses at Credit Suisse were 0-5k this year. Additionally, IB gets even more lucrative at more senior levels.

This is rooted in the economics of an investment bank vs. equity research. Unlike investment banking,  equity research doesn’t directly generate revenue. Equity research departments are a cost center that support sales & trading activities.  In addition, despite a regulatory separation between equity research and investment banking (“Chinese Wall”), it also serves as a way to maintain a relationship with corporations – the very clients that use the investment bank to help raise capital, acquire companies, etc. Nonetheless, research’s indirect role in the generation of revenue makes compensation generally lower.

Edge: Investment Banking


Research associates are in the office at 7am and leave by 7-9pm.  Working on weekends is limited to special situations like an initiation report.  This is very favorable compared to investment banking, where analysts can work up to 100 hours a week.

Edge: Equity Research

Quality of work

If they are fortunate, Investment Banking analysts are exposed to non-public situations such as IPOs and M&A from the beginning to the end of the process.  This provides real insight as to how a transaction is done from start to finish as well as how deals are actually negotiated.  In reality, however, for the first several years, the analyst role is somewhat limited. Analysts  spend a large portion of their time doing monotonous formatting and presentation work. The most interesting and rewarding work is financial modeling.

Equity research associates find themselves almost immediately interacting with portfolio managers and hedge fund managers, the firm’s internal sales force and traders, and communicating the senior analyst’s investment thesis after a company reports earnings.  In addition, they develop modeling skills by constantly updating and analyzing their companies’ operating forecasts.   Another benefit is that he grunt work in research is more limited than in banking –  to the creation of research notes and the updating of the senior analyst’s marketing material from time to time.  However, unlike investment banking analysts, research associates are usually not exposed to the M&A, LBO, or IPO process from start to finish, as they are only privy to public information.  As a result, they do not spend nearly as much time building those types of financial models. The modeling focus is primarily on the operating model.

Edge: Equity Research

Exit Opportunities

Equity research associates usually aspire to switch over to the “buy-side.” That is, to work for the portfolio managers and hedge fund managers that sell side research disseminates their reports and ideas to.  The buy-side offers the allure of even better lifestyle, and actually investing (putting your money where your mouth is).  That said, the buy-side is extremely competitive, even for research associates.  Many associates must enhance their profile by receiving the CFA charter and or going to business school before getting into the buy side.

Investment banking analysts typically pursue MBAs, start their own business, or try to go directly into private equity after their analyst stints.  Generally equity research is looked at as favorably as investment banking for certain buy-side firms, whereas transaction-focused firms, like private equity and VC firms generally prefer investment bankers. MBA programs generally look at investment banking and equity research equivalently, if perhaps a slight edge for investment banking.

Edge: Investment Banking


  • Compensation: Investment Banking
  • Lifestyle: Equity Research
  • Quality of Work: Equity Research
  • Exit Opportunities: Investment Banking


While equity research is less glamorous than investment banking, it deserves a close look.

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Written by The Wall Street Prep Team


Wall Street Prep was established by investment bankers to enhance the competitive profile of students who seek a career in the financial services industry. Our programs are used by thousands of undergraduates, MBAs, investment bankers, and other finance professionals, and are designed to deliver the financial skills that will give you a competitive edge as you pursue your career.

Leave a Comment

  1. January 12, 2016


    Hi there,

    I had an extremely basic question – isn’t equity research a part of investment banking? As such, when we compare ‘IB’ to ER here, are we just comparing a part of the whole to the whole?

    What constitutes IB (as in what kind of jobs are we comparing ER to here?).
    I am still in university and just doing research on all the different paths available for IB careers, and so understanding these differences is key for me.

    Thanks! 🙂

    • January 12, 2016
      user headshot

      Haseeb Chowdhry

      Investment bankers are the professionals working with companies to execute corporate transactions (equity / debt raises, mergers and restructurings).

      Equity research analysts write reports and value companies on a periodic basis – they cover specific sectors.

  2. November 3, 2015


    I am in my 3rd sem of PGDM and want to become an IB but before getting into IB want to do CFA .

    Should I wait till the the completion of CFA or should start with any firm.

    • November 3, 2015
      user headshot

      Haseeb Chowdhry

      I would get started on applying to jobs – experience is immensely valuable…

  3. September 8, 2015

    Ronak shah


    I was just reading the above article and right now I have hard time deciding which one to go for
    I am from a finance background with CFA level 2 candidate, a 2 year degree at Bombay stock exchange covering global financial markets, b.com grad and currently working for one of the big consulting firms as a risk consultant and also with financial modelling skills

    With this
    If you ask me I like both M&A transactions and equity research
    It’s a hard decision to make as to which side to choose
    Also I would like to get an idea of the pay package that I should be expecting as my work ex is around 1.3 years
    Pls help me out with this and what will be ideal as I have opportunities from both the sides
    Thank you

    • September 10, 2015
      user headshot

      Haseeb Chowdhry

      M&A/banking is more lucrative than equity research, and it’s really more a question of what you find more interesting; doing deals or researching on company performance, industries, and being a liaison for capital markets activity on the sell side. There are benefits/costs to both; as an M&A banker you will have to work more hours and will have less control of your schedule initially, as a research associate, it’s the same story, but in absolute terms you will work considerably less hours.

  4. May 29, 2015


    I am an MBA student and confused between selection of Equity Research And IB profile.

    So I had few questions,

    Is the working hours in IB will be same throughout the career, or it will come down with the experience as at some point of time excessive working hour will create problem in personal life.

    What is the profile of Financial Analyst offered by IT companies, Can I switch to ER or IB profile after working for 1-2 year in that profile ?

    Is there any specific preparation needed and any area I should focus ?

    How to get into ER or IB profile at entry level, as I really have no contacts in this industry

    • June 8, 2015
      user headshot

      Haseeb Chowdhry

      Abhijeet –

      Banking hours decrease over time (>5 years), but they will continue to be intense from your analyst to associate career.

      IT companies are looking with primarily investment banking or consulting candidates. If you do tech investment banking you should be in good shape to make the transition, but the general investment banking skill set is highly sought after.

      To get into ER or IB, have a solid GPA, get good internships, and network like crazy! Both are good places to start – equity research is exactly what it is, research. But banking is more execution-oriented (transactions), so you have to see what you prefer. Let me know if you have any more questions – thanks!

      • June 9, 2015


        Haseeb thank you so much for the detailed reply.

        I have so many questions peeping into my mind, but i will try to structure them and ask you. But one thing I am unable to break, as you mentioned network is very important, how do I start and progress ? This is an area where I have been trying but have not been able to get success so far.

        • June 9, 2015
          user headshot

          Haseeb Chowdhry

          Abhijeet – make sure you reach out to friends in Finance who you can get connected to – friends know people 🙂

          • June 12, 2015


            Haseeb – How is the financial Analyst profile in the IT companies ?
            I am not able to understand what could be the role of Financial Analyst in IT company and is it a good profile in the long run.

          • June 12, 2015
            user headshot

            Haseeb Chowdhry


            Typically analysts have done some sort of accounting/finance (banking/advisory/audit) or consulting prior to joining as a financial analyst / associate at an IT firm. Equity research is also a great skill set for this.


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