The analyst and his time challenge | FirstRain

The analyst and his time challenge

Guest post: Michael Prospero, Director of Research at FirstRain

As an analyst, one of the things I struggled with was the vast amount of information coming at me each day. A large part of my job was to read anything from or about my companies, competitor companies, industry bellwethers, thought leaders and of course the overall economy.

I set up Google alerts, but depending on the companies/stocks I entered I got a lot of junk both old and irrelevant. Also, there still isn’t a way to set up the types of sources you would like to read (e.g., no press releases or wire news) — the number of sources alerts covered is relatively small. The stated information from Google is that it watches more than 4,500 English-language news sites. and the number of alerts can become annoying if you have large portfolios of companies you’re tracking.

Additionally, I would have my stock ticker service up on my screen with the stock prices of my portfolios and this would provide an icon if there was news on a stock I had set up on the screen. A large part of my day was spent reading financial publications, checking news from the alerts on my companies, talking to customers and companies. When I had time in between those tasks, I spent my time working investment ideas.

As you read, you come up with ideas (idea generation), which leads you to search for other stories to either support or invalidate your theory. To find those stories, you would of course use Google search. Obviously, Google is very good at finding content, but because it’s most every source on the internet, you have to really hunt for something interesting and timely.

Oftentimes, you will find an article that is exactly what you were looking for in your search only to realize that it’s from 2006. Google search is comprehensive, but it’s tedious and extremely time consuming to dig through the clutter of totally irrelevant as well as non-business relevant content.

It’s been nearly three years since I was an analyst now and the one thing that has drastically changed is the number of blogs (and overall number sources on the internet) and their authoritativeness. In the beginning, the number of blogs was sparse and at best the authors of them were questionable. Now, we have blogs from extremely knowledgeable, connected, intelligent people and micro-blogging (e.g., Twitter) is yet the next step in the evolution of news.

So this leads to why I am at FirstRain: I believe if a system could have gathered all of the news that was business relevant, categorize it by company and topically, and allow me to personalize its delivery along with other preferences, it would have helped my process enormously. I could have spent more time on the phone and more time working on idea generation. Time spent on new ideas rather than time spent covering your butt is the way to create alpha.