Under the Spotlight: Ilan Leas

Ilan Leas is the Head of Marketing at Pacific Life Re and Convener of the Life Insurance and Wealth Management Practice Committee. Ilan loves watching horror movies late into the night and thinks he would be one of the world’s experts on zombies if an apocalypse happens. Read on as Ilan gives us an insight into his personal and inspirational professional life.

In my spare time I like to run and the more adventurous the better (have done the Toughmudder a couple of times) but in the last few years have slowed down my appetite for pain. My preference now is for the safety of a couch, imagining I’m running from zombies.

Last book I read I recently skim read a book on time management. Prior to that, with two young kids, the last book I read feels like years ago but my favourite author is Malcolm Gladwell.

Favourite films My wife and I are (sadly) big superhero movie fans. I think it runs in the family as my daughter (7) wants to grow up and be a mermaid when she is older.

My passion I’m most passionate about my family (my son is 8, daughter is 7 and I’m still crazy about my wife who happens to be another actuary). I also get excited where thereIMG_2439 is an opportunity to do things differently.

Not many people know this but I get nervous talking in front of crowds. Given my role, this is unusual but I do it each time to prove that I can.

If I hadn’t become an actuary, I would be a chef. I don’t think I have all the talent but love the creativity and fun of cooking. In the midst of exams when I first started studying, I almost gave it all up to work in a kitchen.

Why and how I became an actuary. Back in the day, I had no clue what an actuary was but knew a few people who had started to study it. I went for my first interview for a bursary where the interviewer told me that an actuary spends about 75% of their time talking to other people and I knew the career was for me. I didn’t get that bursary but at the next interview when I was asked the same question, I confidently told them that it was all about talking to other people – I think that was what got me over the line.

My work history. I studied in South Africa, working my entire time for Old Mutual in Johannesburg and Cape Town. From there we moved to the UK where I worked for Swiss Re (Life) and later BNP Paribas (GI) before moving to Australia where I re-joined Swiss Re and later Pacific Life Re

What I find most interesting about my current role. I joined Pacific Life Re to be a part of starting up a new reinsurer in Australia. Starting with a blank page of paper and getting to work every day with some of the smartest people I’ve come across has been a real privilege. Thinking about how we can make a difference is the most interesting part of my day.

My role’s greatest challenges. Building a brand and helping to develop a strategy that differentiates us are two of the biggest challenges for a new company and the marketing team’s role is to facilitate both of these components (along with bringing in some business occasionally). More broadly, close to 40 people have come together within 1 year which has been an amazing case study in terms of how to build teams, how to build a culture and how to effectively deliver to clients.

Who has been the biggest influence on my career (and why). Years back I had a mentor who honestly challenged me to put down on paper, where I wanted to go in the next two job moves and what skills I needed to facilitate those moves. I ended up leaving her company as a result (I’m not sure whether she regretted having so honest a discussion) and still to this day I put huge value having someone in your corner that can be honest about your career choices and challenge you to be clear around the long term goals.

My proudest career achievement to date was being part of an amazing team that got through the Group Risk loss period in 2013-2014. I still look back at those years as the period where I learnt the most about myself (keeping positive in the face of a bad situation), about others (how we all deal with stress and emotion in a crisis) and the importance of thinking about our end policyholders (the reason we are in business).

When I retire, my legacy will have nothing to do with the deals I did at work which will be long forgotten.

Ilan pic

Why I’m proud to be an actuary. This is an easy one. I get to work with people smarter than me, no task is ever the same, I’m talking to colleagues every day about difficult challenges and creative solutions and I’m part of a profession that has a phenomenal brand in the community even though no-one knows what we actually do. And I get to have fun doing what I enjoy.

The most valuable skill an actuary can possess is the ability to ask questions. I think that the exam process humbles us and means that actuaries realise that they don’t know everything.

At least once in their life, I think every actuary should take a massive risk and have some adventure. This could be living in a new country, very different new job or even some time off between jobs.

If I won the lottery, I’d just have enough to pay off half my mortgage in Sydney.  


Contact Ilan: Ilan.leas@pacificlifere.com

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