An undergraduate education in philosophy does not entirely prepare one for a career in finance. That was my humble beginning. It did however leave me with a strong capacity for independent and critical thinking as well as a general intellectual curiosity, all of which have served me well through my professional career. My interest at that time had been in political and economic philosophy, which pivoted nicely into a postgraduate in international economics. I quickly gravitated toward the subject of finance, in large part due to an influential macroeconomic professor. And since the international studies building was adjacent to the business school, it afforded me the opportunity to also take corporate finance and investment classes with MBA students.
I jumped into an accounting clerk position for a non-profit halfway through graduate school to get my foot in the door. After three months I was moved into a financial analyst role, probably because the CFO recognized that I was overqualified for A/P work. Upon earning my Masters I immediately enrolled for the CFA Program Level I exam. I sat for the test five months later and passed.
From out of that experience I felt emboldened to take a run at equity valuation myself. However I quickly encountered numerous obstacles. How do you calculate the cost of equity in practice? What is a reasonable growth estimate? How do you select a company to research out of the entire investable universe? Consequently, I jettisoned my goal of valuing companies and writing research reports for the time being. I distracted myself instead with another passion of mine, computer science. After topping off my skills in SQL and VBA I started learning Python, a programming language that has become ever more valuable to me over time as an analyst.
I passed the CFA Program Level II exam on my first attempt. Although I thought I’d be ready to value a company, I was in a similar place as before. My theoretical knowledge was world-class, but I lacked practical hands-on experience. What’s more, all the knowledge I did have was scattered across countless pages of notes. What I needed was a step-by-step guide to keep me organized.
For lack of better resources, this blog was born to address that need. It is largely guided by my own ignorance. Whenever I confront a technical bottleneck when researching a company, I read books and academic articles on the subject matter and scour the web for practical advice. I then document my findings here. The posts are intentionally succinct and always practical in nature, specifically documenting where the data is coming from and how the computations are made. I rely solely on primary data sets and calculate everything myself. Everything I reference is publicly available on the web for free.
What you will not find here are theoretical treatises on the relative merits of this calculation or methodology over other alternatives. Nor do I give much context for the topics I address. The practical guides to equity valuation presume some financial background from the reader. For those inclined to learn more, I have tried to include at least one article link at the end of each post (under Suggested Readings). You will also find book summaries on this site, which cover some of my favorite texts in finance.
– Matt Cullen-Meyer