Career Scoop: Senior Financial Analyst

Career Scoop file, on what it's like to work as a Financial AnalystIn a nutshell, what do you do?

My role as a Financial Analyst sees me involved with calculating costs associated with activities or products. If someone wants to make a change in the business and they want to know the cost impact they come to me.

Most of what I do is ad-hoc in nature, but there is also monthly reporting to be done, where I take the companies profit and loss statement and the transactions for the month, and produce individual profit and loss statements for each of the products that my company offers to its various customers. This enables management to see how profitable each product is and make decisions.

The ad-hoc tasks each month see me costing savings/added expense of items such as proposed changes to enterprise agreements, proposed changes to products/services offered and outsourcing some internal activities.

Why did you decide to become a Financial Analyst?

I have been working in my company for almost four years now and in that time have moved around many finance / accounting departments and teams. Now, as a Financial Analyst I use my contacts and understanding of the business at every level to complete my work.

For me, becoming a Financial Analyst was more of a logical progression given my history at my company, skills & knowledge rather than a conscious decision.

What path did you take to becoming a Financial Analyst?

I will admit that after finishing high school I was unsure about what career path to take. I ended up completing a Commerce Degree majoring in Accounting, as I believed the skills I would gain would help me to one day own and run a successful business.

Once graduating university, I applied for a role in a Graduate Program with a large company and learnt a lot about the business as a whole. Since completing the graduate program I have had the opportunity to move around or company from corporate/head office roles to roles working directly with frontline managers and their teams, and have made many contacts and gained good knowledge of our business.

What, in your opinion, is the best bit of being a Financial Analyst?

For me, the best part of my role is that the topic is always varied and you are always costing new things & ideas. You get an insight to many areas of the business including payroll, revenue contracts, expense contacts, budgets and projects.

What do you think are the worst bits?

The worst part of my job for me is that there is no human aspect to what I do. Although I work in a small team, work is usually divided and prepared individually.

Also, I am only to report on costs. If the proposal will save money then I recommend it, even if it could lead to people within my organisation being disadvantaged, or could not practically work given the actual work environment.

Is it what you expected when you first started out – and what is different?

The role is not what I expected when I started. I thought I would be adding a lot more value than I do, but in reality I spend a lot of time costing proposals that do not go ahead.

What do the public least understand – or mistake – about what you do?

I think there is a misconception that finance teams actually make operational decisions when most of the time we don’t. A suggestion is given to us, we report the possible saving or expense and management make the decision to proceed or not.

Financial Analysts sometimes get the blame when companies decide to outsource, downsize or restructure when we only supply information, it is usually operational management who gather the information (both financial and non-financial) and make the decisions.

What kind of people tend to do well?

If I look at the managers within my department they do have a specific set of skills. They are all good at looking at the details and will constantly read agreements, accounting standards or any other document to understand the issue fully.

To excel, you need to have the ability to meet deadlines, achieve clear outcomes / actions from meetings & fairly “thick skin” as everything you cost will be scrutinised and checked. Spreadsheet modelling skills and knowledge of database programs such as Microsoft Access will make your job a lot easier, as you can easily explain and share your calculations.

Any advice for people looking at getting into this line of work?

Don’t be afraid to move around within an organisation. Most of the knowledge I have acquired about my company is through working in different areas with different people.

Work with others to learn as much as you can and gain contacts as sometimes knowing someone a little can be the difference between them going out of their way to help you or not.

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