Aspirational roles: financial analyst at Amazon
Like many international online retailers, Amazon found itself inundated with orders as lockdowns came into force worldwide earlier this year as the Covid-19 pandemic left many people with little choice but to stay indoors and make all their purchases online.
The pandemic has presented the retailer with unique challenges, says Neha Sinha ACCA, a Paris-based financial analyst managing fixed costs for Amazon’s European logistics.
During the pandemic, her focus has shifted to assuring Amazon Europe’s deployed funds to provide the best possible safety measures for employees and customers.
More usually, her role centres on analysing and dragging results from data. ‘The e-commerce sector is a repository for data,’ she says. ‘It’s also very dynamic, so you need to be able to work smart, to create and to innovate, and you should have the courage to take risks.’
Data is what she enjoys most about her work – its crucial importance to enterprises and its as yet untapped potential. ‘There is so much you can do with data,’ she says. ‘By analysing patterns and trends, you can interpret results and design new things. This, for me, is the best bit about working in finance.’
She adds that the e-commerce sector is at the forefront of innovation, making it a perfect place for a finance professional interested in data to develop a career. ‘It’s continuously changing,’ she says. ‘The moment you learn one thing, another opportunity creeps in, so you are always on your toes.’
Sinha lists three vital skills for a good financial analyst:
- finance and accounting acumen
- data analysis
- the ability to work in a dynamic environment.
Expanding on these, she says that financial analysts also need to be naturally curious and future-focused, and have strong commercial acumen and a keen eye for detail to be able to extrapolate stories and opportunities from data.
The role also requires a high level of ease with technology. With tech constantly advancing, financial analysts must be adaptable and open to change, and, even more importantly, be able to thrive under such circumstances.
An ability to communicate is another must. Financial analysts need to be able to identify the trends and stories to be found in the numbers and convey them to decision-makers in a way they can understand, which typically is by avoiding ‘finance speak’.
Getting in and getting on
Sinha has a degree in business and commerce from Delhi University and a master’s in finance and accounting from Montpellier Business School, as well as the ACCA Qualification. ‘I’ve studied finance, accounting and economics since I was 15 – I don’t know how to do anything else.’
She cites curiosity and passion as two key qualities that underpin progression in her field. ‘If I send you a gigantic Excel file, instead of moaning about its size you should be curious to know what it says and why. Your first impulse should be to wonder how the date can be analysed for the best results, how you can improve it, how you can make the best sense out of it.
‘This should come naturally. You should not join finance if you don’t like challenges and don’t want to develop every day.’
For Sinha, her role challenges her and helps her develop professionally and personally. ‘The more you deep-dive, the more you realise there is so much to do, so many things to develop within yourself and the company, and of course for our customers.’
Financial analyst careers can move in many directions. For Sinha, whose ambition is to become a CFO one day, the deep finance experience will be invaluable.
‘Working in finance, you have to understand the business, only then are you able to interpret financial results and analyse what’s happening inside the business,’ she says. ‘From here, you can enhance your ability to manage operations, therefore making the switch to a leadership role easier when the time comes.’
She adds that doors can also be opened into machine learning by developing expertise in programming languages. ‘This, combined with a proven background in business and finance, can help build better automation and more robust processes.’
Author: Neil Johnson, journalist
This article was first published in the October 2020 edition of Accounting and Business magazine