Quick -- your boss wants information on a particular company. Your firm is considering making a multi-million dollar investment in the company, either in its debt or equities, or by buying the company outright. The question you must answer: is this a good investment?
Researchers at brokerage houses, mutual funds, and investment banks have to answer these kinds of questions every day. And perhaps more than in any other line of work, the results of their searching has enormous consequences. Good information will lead to happy investment results. Bad or incomplete information can lead to financial disaster.
So how do professional searchers on Wall Street get the kinds of results that benefit their employers? Amelia Kassel, in the book Super Searchers on Wall Street, interviewed ten professional financial researchers to learn about their methods and techniques. The book offers some fascinating insights into how these pros find, analyze, and interpret financial information.
Kassel does an excellent job interviewing, probing for unique details from each searcher. She also keeps the interview at an easy to understand level by the general reader, making sure that investment-industry lingo is always translated or explained.
As with all of the books in CyberAge's Super Searchers series, the interviews are filled with helpful tips. Some describe how to get the best results from specific resources. Others are general tips that can be used by any searcher, regardless of whether you're interested in searching for financial information.
For example, individual investor and business librarian Gary Klein describes undocumented techniques for getting information from the SEC's EDGAR database of public company information. He also notes that the system uses stop words like "first," "state" and "corporation" which makes finding information on a company named First State Bank Corporation virtually impossible without using advanced search techniques.
Tish Williams, columnist for TheStreet.com, suggests using "crazy tangential terms" in search engines to pull additional useful information that may not get surfaced with your initial query terms.
Most of these professionals use a combination of proprietary research services and the web. Kassel asks all of the searchers to describe their favorite or most important web sites; these are all conveniently listed in an appendix, and also online at the Super Searchers Web Page.
Equally important, each interviewee talks about how they stay current with new trends and search services. I picked up several new resources that were unfamiliar to me that I'll be checking on a regular basis going forward.
One of the best ways to learn to become a good searcher is to read interviews with professionals and just absorb the information and tips they describe. Super Searchers on Wall Street is chock-full of useful information, valuable to anyone wanting to improve their searching skills, regardless of whether they're an investment professional or not.
Super Searchers on Wall Street
by Amelia Kassel
CyberAge Books - $24.95
The Super Searchers Web Page
Disclosure: CyberAge Books is the publisher of my forthcoming book, The Invisible Web, co-authored with Gary Price. Apart from this relationship, I have no further professional connection with either CyberAge Books or with the author of Super Searchers on Wall Street.
NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.