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What's a hedge fund analyst? A day in the life of an equities analyst at Citadel

Shawn Cain is an analyst focused on the consumer sector with Citadel Global Equities. He joined the firm in 2022 and is based in Miami. Before Citadel, Shawn worked in finance in both Ohio and New York. This is what a typical day in his life is like.

5.45am. This is my standard wake-up time, although I’m occasionally up earlier because I have a toddler at home. I usually start the day by looking at my phone and checking the research and market news that’s arrived overnight. If I see something impactful, I’ll send it to my portfolio manager and associate before taking a shower and heading into work.

6.30am. Now that I live in Miami, I drive to the office and really enjoy starting my day this way. When I lived in New York, I took the subway, but now I have a 15-minute drive with the ocean on both sides of me as I head to downtown Miami. The view can’t be beat.

6.45am. I arrive in the office and get to work. I usually start by reviewing the checklist I developed the night before. I like to plan out my day and know at the start what I want to accomplish. Sometimes there can be unexpected news and I need to recalibrate, but being able to refer to the list helps focus my efforts and keep me on track.

When that’s done, I’ll have a closer look at the notes and market news from overnight. I cover 40-50 different stocks within the restaurant, retail, and leisure space, including everything from powersport and RV companies to food franchises.

8am. This is when we have our morning meeting, where we discuss actionable trades, changes to our theses, and our calls on events scheduled for the day. As the senior analyst on the team, my role during the meeting is to present my portfolio manager with actionable investment ideas. I also synthesize our research and the research from the banks to concisely explain these ideas and the path to monetization. When I was an analyst at an investment bank, I used to write long research reports, but my role now is very different. On the buy-side we communicate our theses much more concisely and we’re prepared to act on them quickly. Analysts at Citadel are given a lot of responsibility and input into investment decisions, which I really appreciate.

8.45am: After the morning meeting, I’ll sit down with my associate to quickly discuss our priorities for the day. I’ll then usually spend a few minutes walking around our floor and speaking to other analysts about what they’re seeing. In addition to working closely with other investment professionals, I frequently interface with the engineers. Their work and support enable me to digest information more quickly and be much more efficient with my time.

9.00am. Before the market opens, I have a call with a sell-side analyst [an analyst in a bank] who recently met with the management team at one of the companies I cover. I ask what the team highlighted and try to learn more about the various initiatives underway or issues facing the company.

10.30am. I drop into my portfolio manager’s office to discuss what I’m seeing and hearing from my calls and research. After our quick debrief, I return to my desk for more reading and modeling. What I’m doing on a given day is very dependent on the reporting cycle and where we are in it: when the companies I cover are reporting results, we’re very busy. After earnings season, we spend some time digesting the results and talking to management. And when that’s done, we’ll often go on the road to attend industry conferences.

Meeting management teams is one of my favorite parts of the job – people in the C-suite are generally very smart, driven, down-to earth-people and it can be really stimulating to meet with industry experts. All the more so because I cover restaurants and leisure – who doesn’t love talking about Harley Davidsons and Taco Bell? Sometimes, management team meetings happen at company headquarters, where we get to see the latest products up close and experience them for ourselves. I once zipped across a lake at over 50mph with a boating company I cover. 

11.30am. Right now, though, we’re in the period just before results, so I’m focused on digging into the data and spending extra time on the earnings models. I discuss what I’m learning with my associate and talk through what we’ve seen in the market so far this morning and answer any questions he has. We sit right next to each other, so it’s easy to stay in close touch throughout the day. After that, I have another call with a sell-side analyst who recently produced some interesting research.

In addition to speaking with management teams and analysts, I talk to a lot of small business owners who run franchises like Wendy’s or McDonalds, or who own Harley dealerships. If you talk to enough dealers and franchisees, you can get an even better feel for what’s going on in the market. There are people who’ve been in the industry for decades and have seen it all.

12.15pm. Lunch is something I look forward to. Though Citadel provides some great options, about half the time I’ll have order-in so I can try the menu innovations at the companies I cover. For example, Domino’s recently came out with a New York-style pizza and I tried it on day one. I do that whenever I can because I know that if something tastes good enough, sales will usually follow. The best analysts live their coverage – there’s only so much you can learn from analyzing the data, which is always backwards looking. You never know if a company might have the next Popeye’s chicken sandwich!

1pm. In the early afternoon, I’ll usually check in with my portfolio manager. We message each other throughout the day, but we typically have a quick, more structured meeting after lunch. We talk about investment ideas and what I expect from the coming earnings season.

1.30pm. I spend time reading and digging into the data on some of the companies I cover and working on earnings previews.

3pm. I have another meeting with my associate. He’s embraced all the technology and analytics we have available to build out our food staples coverage and further enhance our existing infrastructure. I talk to him throughout the day, but we’ll also usually connect mid-afternoon to discuss what he’s been working on in more detail. He’s an important part of our team and helping him learn the craft has been really rewarding. I know from my own experience as an associate that being deeply involved in the work and asking lots of questions is the fastest way to learn, so there’s frequent communication between us.

3.30pm. I have a channel check call with a powersports dealer and then spend more time working on my investment ideas and previews.

6.15pm. I usually leave the office. The traffic is a little heavier in the evenings, but I’m usually home by 6.45pm. While I love what I do, the best part of my day is when I walk through the front door and my 15-month-old runs over to me and gives me a big hug. I usually play with her and get her ready for bed around 7.30pm or so. Then I try to get in a quick work-out and have dinner.

8:15pm. I’ll often read or watch TV with my wife, while checking my inbox for incoming research reports. The reports generally hit between 6pm and 7am. I skim through them and bookmark anything that catches my eye. I also scan social media and industry blogs to see if anything interesting is being said there.

9pm. I put together my checklist for the next day and get ready for bed. I’m usually in bed by 9.45pm or 10pm, but with a 15-month-old daughter I never know whether I’ll sleep through the night or be up at 2am with her!

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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