Kyle Lambert

Senior Financial Analyst (Business Administration, BBA)

Kyle Lambert, Economical Insurance

As a high school student, Kyle Lambert (BBA '11) had no idea what area of study he wanted to pursue for postsecondary education. He really enjoyed classes such as history, geography and writer’s craft, but also enjoyed science and working with numbers. Ultimately, he could not envision himself being a teacher, writing full-time, or working in a laboratory, so he took a chance with business since it offered a wide range of programs, required a mix of technical and people skills, and would likely lead to job opportunities after graduation.

Through the co-op program, Kyle gained experience in government, manufacturing and engineering. Before co-op, Kyle worked in the Public Works department for the City of Sarnia. Approaching his first co-op work term, Kyle reconnected with his previous supervisor and lined up a meaningful summer placement, this time with the city’s finance department. Kyle rotated through various tasks including coding invoices, collecting property taxes, and reviewing purchase orders. A major project Kyle engaged in was creating a database of the city’s capital assets, which was required to comply with new legislation passed by the Public Sector Accounting Board. From this work term Kyle gained great insight into all the different areas within a finance department.

Kyle spent his next work term with CAMI Automotive where he was focused on connecting with vendors to ensure their NAFTA documentation was completed prior to goods crossing the border to avoid tax penalties. He also assisted with typical accounting duties such as bank reconciliations and journal entries. During his work term Kyle was assigned two projects that provided him with his first hands-on experiences with internal reporting and management accounting. The first project involved creating new cost centres in order to separate general maintenance costs from engineering improvements, while the second project involved calculating the labour cost per person/hour. Also at this time, Kyle began to notice that he was enjoying his management accounting course more than pure financial reporting and accounting.

For his third work term, Kyle redirected his job search to gain more internal reporting/management accounting experience and secured a position with ATS Automation as a cost accountant. Kyle’s role at ATS was to track labour and material costs for projects. One of the main projects he undertook was tightening up how employees were coding their hours. By separating costs into different functions such as drafting, electrical, mechanical, etc. ATS is able to manage their labour and equipment hours more efficiently as well as bid on future jobs more accurately.

Kyle’s experience at ATS solidified his interests in management accounting. Following graduation he secured a role with Economical Insurance on their Performance Measurement Team as a financial analyst and also began working toward his CMA designation (now unified with the other accounting bodies as CPA). Kyle oversaw various cost allocations to branches and product lines, summarized profit and loss reports, and analyzed fluctuations in premiums, claims, and expenses. One of the first major projects he was assigned to was working with his manager to create a Balanced Scorecard for the company, a concept he felt familiar with directly from school lectures and assignments. Pulling together data for this report gave Kyle key insights into how to measure the performance of a company outside of strictly financial measures.

Recently Kyle switched to a senior financial analyst role with the projects team at Economical. Projects at an insurance company can range from implementing a new computer system, adding new customer data fields, setting new pricing in a particular region, or rolling out new furniture or printers. Each month Kyle sits down with the project managers to review how each project’s costs are tracking against the business case and determines whether their forecasts make sense (which he refers to as ‘reasonability checking’). After a project is completed, it is Kyle’s responsibility to track the benefits of the project and see whether it achieved the intended results.

Kyle’s favourite aspect of his role is that he is able to see projects from start to finish and that each project is unique and presents its own challenges. Working on the Projects team also involves working with people across the company so there are lots of opportunities to network and see how projects impact other areas. Another big part of the job is taking large volumes of data and then communicating that information in a meaningful way that is easy to understand. At the end of the day, the idea is to provide people with information that allows them to make decisions or to track information more efficiently and make their day-to-day job simpler. One of the less interesting parts of the job is pulling data from various systems, as this can be time-consuming but necessary to build your end product.

Working in an analyst role provides a good mix of working with people and numbers. Often you will need to work independently creating reports, but you also frequently brainstorm with colleagues or your manager to come up with solutions to problems or determine the best way to present information. There is also a lot of variety in tasks as you have typical routine monthly reports as well as constant requests for information from various departments or individuals. When first beginning in a new role you may be responsible for more simplistic tasks such as booking journal entries or pulling data, but as you become more senior you will gain opportunities to lead meetings and make presentations to upper management. Some of the biggest challenges for Analysts are working with old or incomplete data since processes may have been different in the past, the requirements may have been poorly defined at the start of the project, or a report may have changed hands several times causing inconsistencies. It is important for an analyst to document their assumptions when working with difficult data and when possible reconcile the numbers back to source material.

A perk of being an analyst is that nearly all mid to large sized companies have an internal reporting team – meaning lots of job prospects across multiple industries and sectors. As with many professions, financial analysts will continue to be impacted by “big data” as technology enables companies to accumulate more data more quickly, their skills in consolidating and organizing that information in a way that makes sense will be in even more demand. The impact of technology is already being seen in the insurance industry as more customers move towards online quoting and mobile apps to interact with their insurers. Other technologies such as Telematics (where a sensor is installed in your car that monitors your driving behaviour) provide insurers with a whole new set of data to analyze and the opportunity to provide customers with individualized pricing.

Kyle’s advice for students interested in a career as a financial analyst is to develop your attention to detail because as an analyst, everything always has to tie back to something. In addition, you should find opportunities to analyze and interpret large volumes of data. As much as you have to like numbers, you also need to tolerate a lot of ‘grey’, as data can be inconsistent or confusing in which case you need to use judgement and document your assumptions. Also create opportunities to communicate and deliver presentations as there are many times in an analysts’ career where you have to present to colleagues or senior management to influence decision-making.