College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Financial Analyst Offers Career Advice to MSF Students


11/10/2005

It’s not easy being a financial analyst. The hours are long and the work is challenging. The financial rewards are great but turnover is high – either because of burnout or the allure of private equity deals. Still, Tim Opler enjoys his job as a managing director in the healthcare group at Credit Suisse First Boston.

Tim Opler of Credit Suisse First Boston met with students before his presentation.“I have to do transactions all the time,” he said at a professional development class for students in the MS in Finance program. Opler told the students that, as a sales person, he “gets rewards for bringing in financing and merger and acquisitions deals.” Those deals, in fact, directly impact his personal bottom line because they determine his compensation. He’s had a good year, being a player in 9- and 10-figure deals where he has been placement agent, joint bookrunner, co-lead manager, sale manager, and joint deal manager. He is particularly proud of his role in the largest biotech private equity placement in the last three years.

Opler is an industry coverage banker who focuses on the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. He said he always liked science in school, which made his choice of healthcare a natural. Before he joined Credit Suisse First Boston in 2001, he was with Deutsche Bank in their liabilities strategy group. He has also been a member of  the finance faculty at Southern Methodist University and the Ohio State University.

Opler told the students that getting a job on Wall Street was “possible but it’s not easy.” The highly competitive firms that call Wall Street home are, said Opler, looking for people with strong domain knowledge, academic performance, and financial modeling skills and a solid work ethic. Work weeks of 70-120 hours are common, which takes a toll on the physical and mental health of the team members. “The hours are brutal,” Opler said. He noted that he doesn’t work on weekends, a rule of thumb he acknowledged is possible because he is a senior staff member.

“Relentless pursuit (of a job) can pay off,” Opler commented, citing some examples of students who have taken on the challenge of learning about an industry and focusing on recruiting while still in school. He recommended that students consider taking a week to visit the major centers of financial banking to pursue opportunities, make contacts, and showcase their domain knowledge. The recruiting environment this year is good, he said, and suggested that students consider positions in Tokyo and London where firms find the hiring environment more challenging. The jobs are most frequently found at firms in the credit derivatives, credit review and modeling, mergers and acquisitions, and risk management specialties.

Opler said Credit Suisse has innovative ideas and a strong position in the IPO and leveraged finance areas. “We’re strongest in the middle market.” He likes the firm’s culture and people, high standards, great products, and long history with its clients.

UIUC College of Business