Any real value to serious excel skills?

just curious. for someone interested in research is there any real value (from a marketability standpoint) to having exceptional excel/vba skills?

Fck no. Just use the 12C, graph paper, slide rule, and abacus.

At the junior level, when you are not expected to have strong industry knowledge, your greatest assets are: determination to learn, attention to detail, and excel skills.

So, yes. excel skills are very real


^ Agree with itera. As a consultant and even otherwise, I find the use /application of excel an invaluable tool for analytic and logical investigating tasks for fast and methodical decision making specially when in discussion and/or meeting. Yes, for deeper analysis and conclusive /and final formal decisions etc. often modelling , is unavoidable and then too excel more often than not would be an accessory. But for ‘indicative’ but ‘reliable’ analysis Excel with its formulas and a few ready micros, requiring only the laptop or tab and a few minutes of time seems to be the only tool available with swift results but no immediate programming needs. Better the excel skills more you will be self-confident in your analysis, conclusions and advice increasing your reliability and speed.

^^Nailed it.

The other thing I would point out is EFFICIENCY.

The difference between a person who already knows excel fairly well and one who doesn’t is huge. Compare two new hires: one can power through excel on autopilot (not using the mouse, knows how to do many frequently used tasks as fast as possible, knows how to format sheets using formulae/macros for maximum scalability) vs. newbie who is trying to remember how to format cells without using the mouse. The first guy or girl is going to get tons and tons and tons more work done in the same allotment of time. Furthermore, going to look better, be more scalable, and it’s going to have fewer errors.

Bottom line, if you have a few hundred hours experience on excel - especially if you learned good habits - you’ll probably be two or three times as quick as the casual excel user. This alone isn’t gonna get you hired alone, but for entry/low-level positions, it’s definitely a plus.

Interesting. Excel has a lot of tricks that you learn over time, but I wouldn’t think that it takes more than a few months to achieve a workable degree of proficiency. It’s a bit strange to me that Excel skills would be this important from a hiring perspective. I would have just assumed that a smart and tech-savvy person would be able to pick it up quickly.

I never understood the hate towards the mouse.

For buy-side gig:

Yes - being faster gives you the chance to find better opportunities in the market

No - If you don’t bring unique stocks where you’ve found value to the table your portfolio manager could give 2 shits about your excel skills

For sell side gig:


I dont get all the boners over ditching the mouse… I’ve even heard that a company(IBM, Deloitte, or some other gay corporate boss) takes the mouse away from new hires. Now, I use a lot of shortcuts but I really dont think that makes me that much more efficient than an identical user that uses the mouse… especially for formating cells, that shit takes 2 seconds, mouse or not.

I think it’s that if you can use Excel without a mouse, you just show that you know all the skills. Like riding bike without hands or something.

I’m not a proponent of killing the mouse, but it does speed up learning the keyboard though.

Nonetheless, I got a big laugh at those who were masters at excel and then had to upgrade to 2007, where they re-allocated a ton of the shortcut keys LOL

I think the crux of this argument is how you define “exceptional” skills.

Is being able to use a Vlookup an “exceptional” skill?

Is being able to use a pivot table an “exceptional” skill?

Is being able to write a macro from scratch, no errors, on the first try an “exceptional” skill?

I think once you get past the vlookup/sumif/pivot table stage, you start to see diminishing returns. Not touching the mouse is kind of a bragging point, but kinda useless to some degree, too.

Pivot tables used to confuse me. Then I realized it was just MicroSoft-ese for “crosstabulation” or “contingency table” and then I wondered what all the fuss was about. There’s a lot in a name…

That dragging stuff here and there and having it pivot is kinda wierd though. I’m never quite sure how it decides to group things, though admittedly I am usually able to figure it out if I ever discover I need to. It’s one of those techy things that I suspect is more “gee-whiz, look at what our MS coders can make it do,” than “hey, this dragging stuff around and piivoting really useful”

The non-standard math things I find myself using a reasonable amount are OFFSET, VLOOKUP, MATCH, INDEX, SUMIF, COUNTIF, SUMPRODUCT. I don’t use the matrix multiplication so much because I find it annoying to have to define an area as a matrix.

I also find the whole “excel module” paradigm in VBA kinda wierd too… what is that thing… is it a spreadsheet? Is it a program? I can work with it, but it always feels clunky to me.

There’s some good feedback here, Greenman’s comment about diminishing returns past some intermediate level is about what I was thinking.

However, to bring the post back inline with what I was initially getting at. How valuable are strong VBA development skills when trying to get a foot in the door for a research position. Some examples of the type of projects that I would be capable of:

  • Models that could be populated automatically from xml files

  • Benford’s Law type screens that would analyse occurances of 1’s,2’s,3’s etc in published statements within models.

  • Models that incorporate monte carlo analysis into uncertainty surrounding variables

  • process and summarize bulk data not otherwise fit for excel

I know there are/probably are add-in’s availible for the examples above and probably for most of the general examples that I could think of. So my question comes back to the value of the ability to handle these situations in a custom manner when they arise.

That stuff sounds useful to me.

I don’t work in your field, so my comments have limited usefulness. However, for most of that, I would imagine there’s already a computer program that will do that for you.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re trying to bone up on your skills before you get a job. If that’s the case, I would focus on “big picture” stuff. The details (like what you’re talking about) have probably been done before by somebody who can show your their model. Or the company will have a model they want you to use.

Point is–don’t focus on the trees and miss the forest.

There are lots of computer programs and some do things like this. I know one guy who is developing software to load up XBRL (XML template for financial statements) into excel spreadsheets, and it’s a simple-sounding thing that in practice is very tricky to do right. The reason skills like the OP’s are likely to be saleable is that each shop has a different way of aggregating things, so even if there is code, it needs to be highly customizable. Sometimes there is simple stuff and you just put your VBA guy on it rather than purchase a software subscription.

My understanding is that the OP has these skills and is wondering if employers would be interested in them or if everyone on the streeet has equivalent skills. My sense is that there are a fair number with this sort of skill, but it’s still valuable, and that that level of Excel skill probably ought to be highlighted in a resume or cover letter, assuming that the OP wants to be in a position that uses those skills.

If the OP doesn’t have those skills, then it probably doesn’t make too much sense to put a lot of work into developing them, unless 1) it’s not really that big a jump from their current level, or 2) they really really want to learn it anyway, and might be willing to apply those skills even in another field.

They’re useful once you’re there. Don’t really thinks it plays much in the hiring process though. I’ve only been asked once about my excel skills in an interview, and it was only because I was explaining a tool I built during a “what have you accomplished” type question.

I do currently possess the skills that I’m talking about. I’m currently working in PWM and there is little doubt that being able to create these types of customized excel based applications has value both in terms of my productivity and the productivity of all of the individuals that work in my office, all of whom use something that I’ve developed in some way or another. I also believe that my superiors recognize its value as it comes up every year at review time and I believe has been a factor in compensation increases.

I think the issue becomes one of signaling. Prior to joining my current firm I don’t think anyone in my office had ever heard of vba and they certainly had no idea of how many day to day processes could be automated, standardized or otherwise improved. However, if I would have showed up on interview day with a vba line item on my resume and said “I gotz some mad skillz”, they’d of been all “sure kid, we all know how to vlookup”.

I personally think that there is a huge synergy for individuals that have the financial training to identify asset management or investment related issues, whether productivity or decision quality based, and implement a solution to those issues in a tool that everyone in the financial world uses.

What I don’t know is if this belief valid or if it is how I could convince a PM or an analyst that my particular skillset does set me apart from all the other candidates that otherwise probably look exactly like me from the outside.