What Are Buy Side vs Sell Side: The Ultimate Guide

Suppose you are associated with the finance domain as a professional or a student. In that case, you must have often heard the terms – Buy Side vs. Sell Side in your day-to-day interactions.

In the investment banking industry, you must know the difference between buy-side and sell-side

But do you know exactly what these terms mean in the relevant context?

These concepts are like the Batman and Robin of the financial world, each with distinct superpowers and roles, creating a Yin and Yang dynamic.

  • The “buy side” represents those who manage and invest money, serving clients such as individual investors, institutions, and hedge funds to maximize returns for their portfolios.
  • On the other hand, the “sell side” acts as an intermediary, facilitating securities transactions and offering services like market research and underwriting. Together, these two sides form the cornerstone of the financial industry, driving the flow of capital and shaping global economies.

In this guide, you will learn:

  • The difference between the buy and sell sides, exploring how they harmoniously coexist in the financial world.

  • By the end of our journey, you will have a clearer picture of their pivotal roles in shaping the economic landscape.

I aim to provide you with insights into the technicalities of the two concepts mentioned above.

Let me start by explaining these concepts in a simplified manner to you.

Buy Side vs Sell Side- Differences at a Glance

Buy Side vs Sell Side- Differences at a Glance

Have a look at the key differences here between buy side and sell side firms at a glance:

Buy Side vs Sell Side- Differences

S. No.AspectBuy SideSell Side
1.Primary functionManages and invests clients’ fundsFacilitates securities transactions
2.ClientsInvestors, institutions, hedge fundsOther financial institutions and clients
3.Investment goalsMaximize returns for clients’ portfoliosFacilitate transactions and generate fees
4.Key professionalsPortfolio Managers, Analysts, TradersInvestment Bankers, Brokers, Market Makers
5.Research focusAnalyze securities and investment ideasProvide market research and recommendations
6.Compensation structurePerformance-based (fees or incentives)Commission-based (fees for services)
7.Risk exposureDirect exposure to market risksLimited market risk, but operational risk
8.Trading activitiesExecute trades on behalf of the firmExecute trades on behalf of clients
9.Role in IPOsTypically not involved in IPOsUnderwrite and facilitate IPOs
10.RegulationsSubject to fewer regulations (compared to sell side)Subject to more stringent regulations

Buy Side vs Sell Side- Meaning

You can ascertain by the name Buy-Side is associated with the entities that are involved in major transactions and making the investments.

  • These entities can be individual investors, investment and money managers themselves, or companies involved in investing money for future returns.

  • The risk factor is always higher on the buy side as the decision to invest is the sole responsibility of the buy-side analyst or the buy-side analyst’s job on the buy-side firm.

On the other hand, the Sell-Side is associated with the entities that facilitate the sell side traders decision-making and raise capital for the buy-side entities.

  • These entities, again, can be individuals or companies and typically operate within a specific sector or industry segment.

  • The risk involved is less on this side, as the decision is not theirs to make, and their sole responsibility is to present their opinion and estimates.

Sell Side vs. Buy Side in Investment Banking

Sell Side vs. Buy Side in Investment Banking

Buy-side in investment banking refers to the clients of major investment banks and banks.

  • Typically, these are large corporates from across industries that are concerned with buying investment services from alternative energy companies.

  • These clients deploy capital at a certain point and at a certain price suggested by the investment bank for generating future returns.

  • Buy-side can also refer to a client buying merger and acquisition advisory from an investment bank.

In general, an investment bank is a sell-side entity that provides the buy-side with advisory services to make a rational decision.

  • These advisory services are usually for sales & trading, investment bankers raising capital, and mergers and acquisitions.

  • Investment banks provide insights, trends, projections, and analysis of investment options and make recommendations for a higher return in the future.

  • However, in some cases, investment banks can also be categorized as buy side, for example, fundraising done by major investment bank calls and banks on behalf of the client.

Buy Side vs. Sell Side in Equity Research

Buy Side vs. Sell Side in Equity Research

In equity research, buy-side refers to the companies involved in investing their own money or their client’s money purchase securities in the capital markets.

  • These companies, and in some cases individuals, would make the investment decisions not just on the basis of the performance of the stock or the company but also the performance of the financial markets and other macroeconomic factors.

  • The work of buy-side analysts revolves more around validating the research done by many sell-side analysts on-side companies.

  • This is usually done by talking to experts in the industry and deriving robust financial conclusions.

On the other hand, the Sell-side in equity research refers to the broking and financial research firms that track equity stocks, analyze them, and derive an opinion for the clients.

  • These companies are aplenty and usually focus on a particular industry sector or type of company (blue chip, mid-cap, small-cap, etc.).

  • Companies on the sell side closely track stocks, companies, their performance, and forecasts.

  • Their work usually revolves around annual reports, balance sheets, quarterly results, and published data available in the public domain.

Buy-Side and Sell-Side Analysts

The type of work that analysts do, either buy-side or sell-side, is very similar.

  • Again, the objective is to identify the most profitable and high-return investment opportunities per avenue.

  • All analysts are expected to do their own research and create reports on the basis of their analysis.

  • But the intensity and depth of work differ a lot.

  • The research reports created by a buy-side analyst are only available to the company internally. In contrast, reports created by sell-side analysts are available in the public domain.

  • Usually, the buy-side analyst uses reports from multiple sell-side analysts and furthers the analysis by creating their own reports.

Also, the job of a sell-side analyst is to determine whether the investment option should be recommended or not. Still, a buy-side analyst must move up a notch and understand whether the investment option is in line with the company’s strategy.

In other words, a sell-side analyst’s accountability (and also the risk involved) is far less compared to a buy-side analyst.

The question that a sell-side analyst answers is – “Is this stock good?’’ as against a buy-side analyst who answers ‘’ Is this stock good for my company?’’.

  • A higher skill set (financial modeling) and knowledge of extensive financial modeling concepts are required for buy-side analysts when compared to their counterparts on the sell side. Therefore, buy-side analysts usually make more money than sell-side analysts in the industry.

  • Suppose you want to pursue a career in buy-side. In that case, I suggest spending a few years working at large investment bank as a sell-side analyst to understand the basics and then apply them to your buy-side job profile.

Buy-Side Vs Sell-Side Firms in the Financial Market

Buy-Side Vs Sell-Side Firms in the Financial Market

In simple terms, buy-side firms are entities that make the actual investment.

  • These firms typically are asset management firms, venture capitalists, hedge funds, mutual funds, private equity funds, institutional buyers, and equity sales and investment advisors.

  • Buy-side advisory firms are usually bigger in terms of operations. Still, the number of analysts is smaller who often deal with multiple sell-side entities for making investment decisions.

Sell-side companies and firms are broker houses, research companies, and investment banks.

  • The number of analysts in these companies is higher when compared to buy-side firms, with analysts dedicated to specific sectors of companies and industry verticals.

  • Sell-side firms are smaller in terms of operations and typically have limited capabilities.

  • This is one of the reasons why the sell-side analysts are paid lower than the buy-side analysts.

  • Many of us are regular investors in stocks where we buy or sell equities. We conduct stock trade through research reports, stating which equities to buy and which to sell at what time.

  • This decision of ours is largely dependent upon experts’ advice. These experts are officially known as sell-side analysts.

In stock trading, there are two kinds of analysts – the buy-side and the sell-side.

  • The buy-side analysts are those who are involved in raising investment capital and deciding where to invest the capital.

  • The sell-side analysts pitch financial products like bonds, stocks, or companies to investors and persuade them to raise money to buy them.

  • While a sell-side analyst works in a stockbroking firm, a buy-side research analyst has to work with mutual funds, pension funds, or hedge funds.

In this guide, we will look into sell-side equity research analysts in detail regarding their roles and responsibilities, enabling you to understand their communications to you as an investor. You can think of becoming a sell-side equity research analyst yourself!

Secrets in Sell-Side Securities Research

Secrets in Sell-Side Securities Research

Simply put, the job of a sell-side analyst is to recommend stocks to people.

Other than that, a sell-side analyst writes a Sell-Side securities Research Report that is expressive of his or her opinion, enabling investors to decide whether buying or selling certain stocks will be profitable or not.

  • The sell-side securities research analyst has the job of following a list of companies and regularly researching them for the clients of the firm employing them.

  • The clients are comprised of individual investors, small businesses, and corporations.

  • To ease the research process, the researcher builds financial models to keep track of the financial changes happening in the list of companies and communicate with competitors and suppliers; customers are other sources to generate holistic company research profiles.

  • These research works are reflected in the form of reports made accessible to the public.

  • The report will generally be detailed research and recommendations on why some stock is or isn’t a good investment in the long-term or short-term.

  • For their research and analytical skills (financial modeling), the researcher is usually paid about 60,000 USD to 90,000 USD annually.

  • The salary range differs with profile role and responsibilities, work experience, and educational knowledge.

  • A sell-side Securities research interview is most of the time practiced and trained. Stocks that are rated sell in these interviews aren’t considered to have much potential.

  • These equities will tumble down soon because they have been rated sell. Equities that are bound to go up are rated as a buy.

The 3 Secrets – Buy Side vs Sell Side

A sell-side securities research analyst will tell you whether you should buy, sell, or hold a particular stock. These sell-side securities research analysts are appointed by investment banking firms to advise customers.

These research analysts develop secret methods of recommending stocks. I have come across many people who blindly follow the advice experts give, but should they?

I know they are experts; therefore, their recommendations carry value, but should you trust them blindly?

Let’s see. In this article, I will briefly point out 3 secrets of sell-side selling securities by research analysts. The analysts won’t even let you on these, so read and remember.

1. Sell-side doesn’t prioritize individual investors

This is a shocking and bitter truth, but it is how it is. As individual investors, you expect equity researchers to treat you equally, at par with big-shot institutional investors, but you aren’t.

  • Equity research isn’t carried out with the purpose of helping out individual investors. In fact, an individual investor is the last thing on the mind of an analyst while conducting research.

  • Individual investors indeed benefit from these research reports, but they are not made keeping the individuals in mind.

Equity researchers draw up these reports for their corporate clients or high-value investors.

2. The stock depends on the statements of the analyst.

Yes, even this is true, and it would strike you immediately if you applied logic and common sense.

  • When you buy or sell a stock, it is always on the research analyst’s recommendation, right? Therefore, when an analyst rates the stock as a ‘sell,’ those who follow his or her advice sell the stock almost instantly.

  • This obviously results in a fall in the prices of these stocks.

  • Hence, it would be safe to say that the plight of the stocks is largely dependent upon the sell-side research analyst.

Now, whether you should listen to the advice of the analysts or not brings us to the third secret, and it is doubly shocking!

3. Unqualified analysts

Ideally speaking, an analyst should have an MBA degree and a CFA certification.

  • Being a sell-side research analyst calls for high skill levels because a lot of money is involved here, and people want the best profit margin.

  • However, the bitter truth again is that only 3/4th of the sell-side analysts are qualified. In contrast, the others simply learn on the job.

  • Most of them aren’t even MBA or CFA certified. It’s acceptable to learn on the job. Still, sometimes, the firm hires less qualified and less skilled individuals to control company costs.

  • This, in turn, poses the firm customers at risk because the customers/investors rely on the analytical abilities of the sell-side firm call-side researcher.

  • Therefore, given the fact that some firms engage in flawed recruitment drives, it is very easy to enter the job market. Still, the redeeming factor is that one needs to prove their skills and analytical abilities to make a successful career as a sell-side research analyst.

  • The demand for qualified sell-side research analysts is high due to scarcity in the market.

To become a top-class equity research analyst, you have to be yourself. Be more of yourself and start polishing your skills. Many people are working on it. And you as well?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of buy-side firms?

Buy-side firms include asset management companies (e.g., mutual funds), hedge funds, private equity firms, pension funds, and endowment funds.

Can an individual be part of both buy-side and sell-side roles during their career?

Individuals can transition between buy-side and sell-side roles during their finance careers. Some professionals may start in sell-side parts (e.g., investment banking) and later move to buy-side functions (e.g., an asset management firm or investment banker).

Do sell-side analysts only focus on recommending stocks?

While sell-side analysts often provide stock recommendations, they may also cover other financial instruments and asset classes, such as bonds, commodities, and derivatives, depending on their area of expertise.

What qualifications are required to become a successful sell-side research analyst?

Successful sell-side research analysts typically have strong educational backgrounds, often holding MBA or CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designations. Additionally, they need excellent analytical and communication skills.

How can individuals differentiate between trustworthy sell-side research and biased reports?

It’s essential to critically evaluate sell-side research and consider multiple sources of information. Look for analysts with a track record of accuracy and objectivity. Independent study and diverse viewpoints can also help assess a stock’s potential.

What are some key responsibilities of buy-side analysts in asset management firms?

Buy-side analysts in asset management firms are responsible for researching and analyzing potential investments, constructing portfolios, monitoring portfolio performance, and making investment recommendations to portfolio managers.

Why is financial modeling crucial for buy-side analysts?

Financial modeling is essential for buy-side analysts as it helps them assess the financial health of companies, project future earnings, identify investment opportunities and estimate the intrinsic value of assets. These models are critical for making informed investment decisions.

How does the compensation for buy-side analysts compare to sell-side analysts?

Generally, buy-side analysts earn higher salaries and bonuses than sell-side analysts due to the higher risk and responsibility associated with sell side jobs and with making investment decisions for their firms.

Are there any ethical considerations for sell-side analysts when making recommendations?

Sell-side analysts must adhere to ethical standards and avoid conflicts of interest conducting internal research. Regulations, such as the Global Research Analyst Settlement (GRAS), have been implemented to ensure the objectivity and integrity of sell-side research.

What are the typical career paths for professionals in buy-side and sell-side roles?

Career progression in buy-side and sell-side roles often involves moving from analyst positions to more senior roles, such as portfolio manager for buy-side professionals and senior research analyst or director for sell-side professionals. Further advancement may lead to functions like CIO (Chief Investment Officer) or CFO (Chief Financial Officer).

My Exclusive Insights For You

Suppose you want to make a career in the investment and commercial banking industry, hedge funds, and pension funds. In that case, you should know the buy-side vs. sell-side and have awesome expertise in financial modeling.

This article gave you a clear distinction between the buy-side and sell-side in the corporate finance’ domain. If you have any questions, please feel free to write back.

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10 thoughts on “What Are Buy Side vs Sell Side: The Ultimate Guide”

  1. Hi Sir,

    Im perceiving my MBA 3rd sem going to complete in finance.
    My question is what should i go through to become Financial Analyst. Im confused as fresher to company what tough situations in company i would go if i dont be prepared for right subject or topics to become financial Analyst.

    Plz sir i need a guidence for becoming an proper financial Analyst. In financial firms. How to become financial Analyst. Will it be easy to work as fresher in company or should go through any subject of finance. ????


  2. Hello Sir ,
    I am totally trapped and totally confused in my life’s way… currently i am doing CA and doing Internship in CA FIRM and now-a-days i am totally thinking different from my career side. actually my problem is i am interested in share market, investment analyst, financial analyst, because after 12th class my sole attraction was in investment, companies depth analysts, and i only want to go on with this interest and my sole aim is to be the bestest analyst of financials, companies net worth, future forecast, and i only want a path for what should i do with this problem of my mind if anybody is here who can help me and get me out of this situation please help me .please please please

    • Hi Abhinav,

      I can understand the situation you’re into. Please remember that ONLY YOU can take yourself out of this situation by taking control of your career.

      If you want to get into equity markets, then you should start gaining knowledge and acquiring skills.

      Have you completed your CA exams?

  3. hello sir,
    i am interested in investment research. i know about financial statement analysis,excel , valuation and financial modeling. any other skills i should learn ? also at the entry level where( buy side/sell side) should i target or which jobs(kpos or others) i can get in mumbai.
    what is the compensation and working hours differences as far as both buy side and sell side are concerned in equity research.

  4. Sir
    I have completed my M.Com and I am a CMA finalist.

    Can I opt for financial analysts job?
    Will it work for me?

    • Hi Ankita,

      If you want to work as a financial analyst in equity markets, then you should gain knowledge and skills about that market as I suppose CMA coursework doesn’t cover it.

      Apply for internships in investment banks, research organizations or KPOs to gain the skills and experience.

  5. Sir

    I am pursuing my MBA in Nagpur University.I want to be an Invest banker so kindly tell me how to become an investment banker.


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