Like rainbow-colored aliens, Financial Analysts come in many flavors. But all do the same thing: They analyze money. Is so and so a good credit risk? Is this company worthy of a B rating in its bonds? Is this stock a buy, sell or hold? Does my own mother understand what it is that I do?
As long as she understands that I’m pretty.
The lion's share of financial analysts work on Wall Street for "buy" or "sell" side firms. A buy side firm is a mutual fund, hedge fund, or other investment entity charged with managing money for an individual. The "sell" side of that world are the stock brokers who sell money for a living. And you have to understand this maybe subtle but very key difference to be able to understand what financial analysts do - or rather, the perspective they have in doing their jobs.
Financial analysts on the buy side are trying to find a rationale to buy something, to figure out if or how a given investment opportunity is cheap. Is the world just panicked for no good reason? Is there something fundamentally wrong with this company? Is it actually just fairly priced for all the risks involved?