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Amanda Hay, manager of strategic analysis for financial services at Aimia Inc.
Amanda Hay, manager of strategic analysis for financial services at Aimia Inc.

MY CAREER

Finding gems of insight from customer data Add to ...

What is your full name and title, and how long have you been in this role?

My name is Amanda Hay, and I’m a manager of strategic analysis for financial services at Aimia Inc.

I’ve been in this role for just three months, but have been with Aimia, the operator of the Aeroplan and other loyalty programs, for more than three years. First I was an analyst, then a senior analyst and now I manage of a team of analysts.

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What exactly do you do?

Aimia seeks to enhance the client’s customer loyalty experience. My part is analyzing customer data and supporting the development of customer-oriented business and loyalty marketing strategies. This involves applying analytical and statistical techniques to large data sets to extract, interpret and present insights that ultimately drive business results for our clients. While my concentration is normally within the financial services sector, I also get the chance to work on some projects outside of my daily scope. For instance, employees from Aimia spent a recent weekend analyzing the data of three not-for-profit organizations in order to make recommendations to improve their programs. There were a lot of people that I wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to work with and this event exposed me to new ideas, perspectives, technology and industries.

Describe what you do on any given day.

Much of my day is spent meeting with internal and external clients to discuss various projects. The rest of my day is spent figuring out the “so what” from these projects – what are the meaningful insights? For example, I might note that, for two consecutive months, program members are burning points faster than they’re earning them. I need to dig deeper to figure out what this means and why it’s occurring. I need to define the potential impact for the program and for Aimia in the current period – and in the future, should it be a long-term trend. I work with internal clients to better assess these effects, whether positive or negative, and define recommendations based on these insights so they can be presented to external clients.

What’s your background and education?

I have a BA in psychology. Prior to joining Aimia, I worked on employee incentive programs and prepaid card products. Working on incentive programs is really what led me into the loyalty program industry. At their core, employee incentives and consumer loyalty programs are both trying to drive certain behaviours through positive reinforcement, and that’s part of psychology as a science.

How did you get to your position?

In university, I took a lot of statistics courses. I enjoyed them because the numbers would tell you tangible things about people and their behaviour. It taught me how to measure human actions and reactions, and about motivating people toward an end goal within a scientific framework.

Working at Aimia has allowed me to apply those concepts to real life. I like being able to use data to provide direction to internal and external clients. It’s like a puzzle. I determine the relevant pieces (or data points) and how they fit together to provide the full picture.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is being able to study human behaviour. Working on various loyalty projects allows me to look at how consumers interact with the program and how this behaviour can be affected through various channels.

What’s the worst part of your job?

I like giving presentations but I can sometimes struggle with getting the words out. I need to make it compelling for the client by explaining the findings with the same enthusiasm that I had the first time I looked at them. The worst thing you can do is just read out numbers.

What are your strengths in this role?

I’m a good translator. I am able to speak with clients to determine their business objectives and then, given their data, decide which metrics would best track performance against them. In turn, I’m able to explain results of analyses in a way that is clear and meaningful to our clients. It’s important to make analytics accessible and relevant and provide recommendations that can be acted upon.

I dig to the root of the issue. A client may come with a very specific request but it’s important to understand why the request is being made to ensure that you provide the appropriate information. If you understand the basis, you can avoid a lot of back and forth and unnecessary work later.

What are your weaknesses?

I am an overthinker. I’m good at playing devil’s advocate but that often leads me down a path of never-ending “what ifs,” and that distracts me from the initial goal. I have to remind myself of the objective and filter out the inconsequential details.

What has been your best career move?

My best career move was deciding to take a chance and apply for an analyst role with Aimia.

What has been your worst career move?

My worst career move was not making one. I came out of university resolving that I didn’t want a job unless it was in my field, psychology. I loved psychology, it was all I wanted to do and I didn’t care how much schooling I’d need or how long I’d have to wait to find my dream job.

I worked at less-than-fulfilling roles because I didn’t want to get comfortable and end up doing something I didn’t love for the rest of my life. At 23, it made sense; friends supported my conviction. At 25, it was depressing. Friends who previously “settled” for a job they weren’t really passionate about had managed to find a niche for themselves in their respective companies and, for the most part, enjoyed what they were doing – or at least they enjoyed the income. I had little to no disposable income and definitely didn’t enjoy my job and I wasn’t challenging myself.

What’s your next big job goal?

There’s been an increased focus and reliance on analytics across businesses in recent years. It’s no longer enough to just measure something after the fact. People need to involve analytics at the outset of all projects for strategy, decision making, forecasting, budgeting. Keeping ahead of the curve is a big focus for me, especially when working with loyalty programs. Merely having a loyalty program is no longer a differentiator; it has to be smart. Data and analytics help drive that intelligence.

What’s your advice to others?

Having a plan is important but don’t be afraid to change it. Being an analytics person, I’m a big planner but I’ve learned the importance of being adaptive and flexible. Changing course doesn’t equate to sacrificing your goals.

One of my favourite quotes is from Albert Einstein – “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” It’s not enough to be able do the calculations, build the models, run the analyses, you have to be able to articulate and justify your methods simply. Clients want insights they can use to generate revenue. Understanding your client’s business is key so that you can communicate with them in meaningful terms.

Do you know an executive or leader who has an interesting career story for My Career or My Career Abroad? E-mail mycareer@globeandmail.com

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