Fidelity is not your typical employer. A month prior to submitting my application (they were my first), I anxiously trawled through careers websites of bulge bracket banks, fund managers and consultancies. I wasn’t even entirely sure what fund management entailed. I wanted an intellectually stimulating and rewarding career, and I knew that choosing an internship with a good firm was crucial in achieving that goal. What set Fidelity aside from the competition? I knew it had a good reputation in the investment world but it was Fidelity’s ownership structure and size that sealed the deal.
Fidelity is unlike any other major company in the industry because it’s private. When the nature of your work is totally wedded to the stock market, the company’s concurrent marriage to the fluctuating public markets inevitably produces a choppy ride. It might seem like a minor point, but Fidelity’s solid alignment of employee interests with company interests pervades all levels of the organisation. It just defies the stuffy corporate stereotype with relentless drive for increased efficiencies and worked-to-the-bone hours (don’t think it’s an easy ride though!). I was frankly astounded at the resources, freedom and trust given to the intern pool (more on that later). Fidelity oozes a nice, relatively laidback but serious atmosphere. A place where productivity, not ‘facetime’, is paramount. It’s a great place to start a great career.
A little about me
I’m an early twenty-something in the final throes of his economics degree at St Andrews. What attracted me specifically to fund management? I grew up with a father who persistently nagged me to follow news events and understand the who/what/why/where/when of the milieu in which they occurred. My parents were also small business owners and matters pertaining to the company were typical dinner table discussion. I started working for them at the impressionable age of 14 and cultivated an interest that had already blossomed during pre-adolescence. That interest was business itself – why and how did industry and services function? I thought it was fascinating.
In tandem, my grandfather (who lived nearby) had managed his own wealth for his entire life, eschewing fund managers in favour of buying his favourite companies. His shareholdings and the rationale behind them were often a topic of discussion between us and many an annual report was flung at me (not that I had the faintest idea how to interpret it!). Thus something involving business, politics, the economy and stocks seemed like a natural fit. Now that I’ve blathered my life story at you, what about the role itself?
Stockpicking and support
Stockpicking is not something you read about in a book, per se. It’s something you’ve actually got to practise, and Fidelity’s internship is entirely about giving you that opportunity. After an initial bedding-in period, new equity research interns are given their first company to research. Aside from the name, ticker and limitless access to the sea of data on a Bloomberg terminal, you’re essentially a free agent – your own creativity is the only boundary. Obviously the global equity universe (the stock market) is a daunting place and the reams of data, techie terms, accounting nuances and industry jargon only complicates the seemingly monolithic task of assigning a ‘buy’ or a ‘sell’.
But in this difficult and bewildering period is where an internship with Fidelity really shines. You may have been chucked into the deep end, but there’s a lifeguard on standby. Unlike in a boutique or mid-sized firm, Fidelity can afford to give the interns a serious amount of attention and training – not just leave them in isolation.
Interns were given round-the-clock access to a sagacious and highly experienced investor (a director of research), which proved truly invaluable. His generosity and thoughtfulness in educating the interns cannot be understated. The friendly work environment duly supplemented that: full-time colleagues were frequently willing to spend 10-15 minutes discussing a problem or helping you understand an accounting term. This was after you’d chatted about your weekend and the inevitably gorgeous summer weather.
A typical day
In complete honesty, I spent the first three weeks seriously questioning my decision to pursue a career in fund management. I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. Submerged in the sea of spreadsheets, it was easy to lose track of the overall goal – understanding the company and the industry. Providing a fair representation of what a typical intern day would resemble could be summarised in one word: Excel.
Many will find the thought of what appears to be many hours staring into an abyss of numbers the antithesis of a stimulating and rewarding career (convincing friends that I actually enjoyed this proved challenging). But the financial models you construct are simply quantitative expressions of your chain of thought and logic (something which you elucidate qualitatively in the accompanying report).
So a typical day will generally involve reading an annual report (or two, or three) and generally mucking around with MS Excel. The intellectually stimulating part is when you have the lightbulb moment. The stock you’re investigating has been lying in the doldrums for a few quarters – there’s plenty of negative and neutral sentiment in the broker notes (publicly available sell-side research). But wait! You’ve been reading up on the company, the industry, the competitors and you simply don’t agree. Well guess what: you don’t have to agree and you can take action to profit from your beliefs and research. After all, who doesn’t like being right? This is what makes stockpicking really cool. The moment when you realise the market has missed a beat on something and that you’re ahead of the curve.
If reading this article hasn’t at least piqued an interest in equity research and if you haven’t come away with anything but a positive impression of the work environment then I’m doing Fidelity a disservice. Their careers literature often sports the slogan ’Be our next investment’. This isn’t just a gimmick. They really mean it.