Financial models are mathematical representations of a company, financial asset(s), or any other investment. Quantitative modeling techniques are applied in Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheets, and incorporate a wide variety of inputs on accounting data such as cash flows, financial data such as stock market performance, and relevant non-financial metrics such as risk factors. By then applying techniques from statistics such as linear regression analysis, skilled modelers can build a simulation that can be used to predict future financial performance.
This type of quantitative modeling is critically important for providing guidance for business decision-making in areas such as investment analysis, corporate finance, and company valuation and forecasting. However, these probabilistic models cannot actually see into the future; a skilled analyst must understand not only the considerable predictive powers of these financial models but also their limitations in order to make proper use of them.
Familiarity with financial models is necessary for many jobs in the business world. Whether you’re an accountant providing inputs for these models, a financial officer presenting them at a board meeting, or a CEO consulting them on business decisions, it’s important to know how these tools work and what they can (and cannot) tell you.
For some business professionals, financial models are even more central to their work. Financial analysts, for example, are employed by banks, investment funds, insurance companies, and other businesses to evaluate financial data, study economic trends, and build and analyze the models used to evaluate investment opportunities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial analysts make a median annual salary of $85,660 per year and typically only have a bachelor’s degree, making this an attractive job to begin your career in the business world.
Absolutely. Coursera has business courses and Specializations on a wide range of topics, including financial modeling. You can take courses focused on areas like financial and quantitative modeling, statistics for financial analysis, and the use of programs like Microsoft Excel and Python in this field.
And, because Coursera offers courses from top-ranked universities from around the world like University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Macquarie University, and Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, you won’t have to sacrifice the quality of your education to learn about financial modeling online.
The skills and experience that you need to already have before starting to learn financial modeling may likely include a keen attention to detail, strong computer skills for databases and spreadsheets, a fundamental understanding of basic accounting principles and financial statements, and knowledge on how to build a financial forecast using financial data. These skills may all come in handy to learn more about this financial process that’s used to model the likely impact of a future decision or event. A key aspect of learning financial modeling may exist in knowing the three key elements of a financial forecast (income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement) and how to link them together in an Excel spreadsheet.
The kind of people that are best suited for work that involves financial modeling are those who love working with numbers, testing data, and figuring out hypotheses and being confident to present findings to senior teams. Some common characteristics of this type of person may also include having a positive attitude, being a self-learner and self-starter, and showing flexibility to get around obstacles. These traits are often found in people who have become successful financial modeling professionals in investment banking, equity research, corporate developments, and real estate investments.
You might know if learning financial modeling is right for you if you show a keen understanding of the financial methods used by companies, and have a passion to learn how these companies can operate more efficiently with accurate data and analysis. If you’ve often studied company financial statements and watched business news on the internet, you may have an underlying desire to work in the financial industry, whether on Wall Street or on Main Street. Today’s advanced financial modeling professionals often work in key roles like investment analysts, statistical analysts, data analysts in trading, quantitative analysts and traders (quants), and financial engineers. By using your basic accounting and analytical skills and experience to learn more about financial modeling, you could find that you want to pursue these types of career roles.
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