Interview Questions: The Financial Case Interview

Published: Mar 10, 2009

Topics: Finance       

Case interviews aren't just for consultants any more. Many investment banks give questions that could, under other circumstances, be called case interviews--they often involve both strategy and quantitative know-how. The best way to prepare for any interview is to prepare. Here is one such question.

What is a company that you follow closely? Is it a good investment?

Tell your interviewer you would look at various criteria to determine if it's a worthwhile investment, including:

  • Earnings growth: Determine how fast the company's earnings are expected to grow, looking at the following factors (among others): the company's historic growth rate; earnings growth rates of other companies in the industry; growth rate of the market the company services; analyst estimates; and perhaps building your own financial model in Excel to test various assumptions.
  • Industry analysis: Evaluate the industry the company is in to determine whether this is an attractive industry in which to invest. Look at factors including: how rapidly the industry is growing; whether the industry is consolidating; how intense the competition is among competitors; whether market players have pricing power; and whether products are considered commodities.
  • Competitive advantages: Evaluate whether the company has any competitive advantages over its competition, such as patents, exclusive contracts, a differentiated product, brand equity, a lower cost structure, or superior management.
  • Valuation: Given its prospects, is the company a good value? You would compare the company's expected earnings growth to various valuation measures, like price-to-earnings ratio, price-to-sales ratio, and price-to-book-value. You would also compare these valuation measures to other companies in the industry to determine whether the company is relatively expensive or relatively affordable.
  • Portfolio considerations: Finally, you would want to determine whether an investment in the company fits well with your overall portfolio and objectives. You would want to ask questions like: Does the company help diversify risk in your portfolio? Does the company meet your portfolio's risk profile?
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