By now, Peloton has become a household name—thanks, in part, to a 2013 Kickstarter campaign that introduced its exercise bikes to the world. But Peloton is so much more than a sports equipment distributor. The company has changed consumer behavior and disrupted the industry by charging a monthly subscription fee for access to livestream and on-demand classes that work with its product. Thirty thousand riders signed up in less than two years and, as of September 2020, the company had 3.1 million members and a market value of $26 billion.
What seemed like an overnight success story shocked most consumers, but Cristina Fernández and the research team at Telsey Advisory Group (TAG) saw it coming. Fernández has her finger on the pulse of emerging brands and technologies: each day, she talks to leading executives, scours social media platforms, and devours online news to uncover how products are changing and where brands are going.
At TAG, it’s all in a day’s work. Fernández is a managing director and senior equity research analyst at the advisory firm. She leads a world-class team that tracks homeware and athletic brands like Nike, adidas, Bed Bath & Beyond, Williams-Sonoma, RH, and Peloton. “We’re looking at corporate strategy and consumer trends, and we’re also watching for the next wave of disruptive companies that are about to go public. We want to make discoveries early and get ahead of the curve,” Fernández says.
Fernández and her team interpret current events and news to forecast where brands and industries will go. Then, they build complex financial models and develop detailed analytics that predict sales and earnings. That information goes to TAG’s clients—mutual funds, hedge funds, and real estate owners who are making investment decisions based on Fernández’s research.
Billion-dollar fund managers have come to trust Fernández’s work because she’s earned a reputation as a respected leader within the finance industry. To her mind, a quality education is what put her on such a solid career path. “My family placed a lot of emphasis on the value of a good education early on, and that has anchored everything I’ve been able to do,” she explains.
“We want to make discoveries early and get ahead of the curve.”
Fernández is the second of three children and was born in San Juan to a Puerto Rican father and Cuban mother. Both of her grandfathers were doctors, and her father was a small business owner with a marketing background. As a junior at a top college preparatory high school, Fernández accompanied some classmates on a tour of college campuses in the mainland United States. That’s when she fell in love with Washington, DC, and decided to apply to Georgetown.
Although Fernández didn’t grow up in a connected Manhattan family or have any connections in the financial world, a Georgetown degree helped her open doors in finance. She started her career at Arthur Andersen, where she helped audit healthcare, nonprofit, municipal, and real estate clients.
After honing her skills, Fernández climbed the ranks as a senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers before moving into equity research for UBS in 2004. Along the way, she participated in an international exchange program at the London Business School and completed a full-time MBA at the NYU Stern School of Business through a fellowship from the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.
At each stop, Fernández committed herself to logging hours, developing skills, and building relationships. “You have to work your way up in finance,” she says. “There are simply no shortcuts. You acquire the skills through the experience of the day-to-day work.”
UBS, a multinational investment bank and financial services company, hired Fernández to work in its aerospace and defense investment research group. The difficult assignment required her to learn a technical industry and develop new expertise. She succeeded by relying on experienced mentors and participating in a structured training program that she credits with preparing her to step into leadership at TAG.
“You have to work your way up in finance. There are simply no shortcuts. You acquire the skills through the experience of the day-to-day work.”
Fernández joined the growing Telsey organization in 2011. And although the move required her to learn yet another industry—consumer retail—she says she’s been able to turn each previous experience into an asset. “At the end of the day, an equity research analyst is the same role regardless of industry,” she says, “but having a varied background helps me see the bigger picture and understand factors that impact every company.” With that foundation, a good analyst can dig deeper into his or her specific industry.
TAG’s equity research teams are small, which allows each one to stay agile and maximize its efficiency. Fernández helps manage a team of four employees and tries to maintain a collaborative, authentic, and engaging atmosphere. “I want everyone on my team to have the same growth opportunities that I’ve had throughout my career,” she emphasizes.
The efficiency and efficacy of Fernández’s team is more important than ever, as big things are currently happening in the consumer retail space. Brands that were previously digital-only are now opening physical stores, just as flagship mall mainstays are shrinking back. Companies are trying things like curbside delivery, virtual appointments, and cashless payments. Players both big and small are examining every factor in consumer behavior, from BOPIS (buy online pickup in store) to social media usage. As companies maneuver to position themselves in the market, avoid passing fads, and double down on lasting trends, Fernández and her team will keep TAG clients in the know so they can reap the rewards.
Editor’s Note: Telsey Advisory Group (TAG) does not have holdings in any securities covered by TAG. No TAG research analyst has any holdings in any securities covered by the analyst. TAG research analysts do not receive compensation from subject companies. TAG provides investment banking and other non-investment banking securities-related services, and non-securities services, and may seek such relationships from companies about whom it provides research.
TAG, its employees, and their households have no other conflicts or potential conflicts of interest. TAG has acted as a manager or comanager of a public offering of securities by Peloton Interactive Inc in the last twelve months. TAG received compensation from Peloton Interactive Inc for investment banking services in the last twelve months.