Under the Spotlight – Kieran Leong
Proud general insurance actuary and Manager at Taylor Fry, Kieran Leong, first discovered what an actuary was in year 12. He thought it would be a good challenge and his career to date has proved challenging but also rewarding to know the actuarial skillset enables you to work in a range of different fields.
Summarise yourself in one sentence … Quiet at first, but when you get to know me I’m loud.
My favourite energetic pursuit … Sports: tennis, cricket and basketball. I lost a lot of sleep over the last few months following the French Open, Cricket World Cup, Wimbledon, US Open and the Ashes.
My dream is to … Do the tennis career grand slam as a spectator! I’ve been to the Australian Open and Wimbledon, so two to go.
I’d like to be brave enough to… Watch a horror movie.
In my life, I’m planning to change … My empty passport. I’d love to travel more and see the world, but there’s never enough leave and travel is expensive.
If I could travel back in time, I would … Buy a ticket to attend the Australian Open 2017 grand final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, so I could see Roger lift his 18th major trophy.
Not many people know this but I … Had an accident on a train and ended up in an emergency department with stitches to my head. It was scary but a wake-up call for me to prioritise my health and work-life balance better. My first-hand experience of Australia’s health system also created an interest to do work in the area and help maintain the system as one of the best in the world.
I became an actuary because … I wanted to apply my passion for mathematics in a commercial career. I actually didn’t know what an actuary was in high school. In Year 12, when I was planning my options for university, I had conversations with my cousin and my neighbour, and they told me about actuaries. After a bit more research, I thought it’d be a good challenge for me, so I decided to pursue it.
Why I’m proud to be an actuary … We’re a well-respected profession and our members are participants in many industries, such as financial services, superannuation, health and government. I’ve had the privilege of working with actuaries who have made important contributions to our society. For example, John Walsh had a pioneering role in establishing the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which has improved the lives of many Australians with disabilities. More recently, Alan Greenfield and the team at Taylor Fry combined actuarial techniques with analytics methods to help the New Zealand government better understand its welfare system, and implement an investment approach to welfare spending. This inspired other government entities to think about how they can better use their data. It’s great to be part of a profession doing ground-breaking work for social good.
Short description of career … I started as a graduate at PwC. For the first five years, I was heavily involved in workers compensation and it was an interesting time in the NSW scheme because significant reforms were made during 2012 and 2015. Later, I branched out to do more work in health and government analytics. The transition wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding to learn how actuaries can work in different fields. After about eight years, it was time for a change, so I moved to Taylor Fry about a year ago. Diversity of work has been great – I’ve already worked across injury schemes (both workers compensation and CTP), insurance, corporate analytics and health.
Who has been the biggest influence on my career (and why) … There have been many, but I’ll name a few. From my time at PwC, I’d say Gavin Moore and Roland Fan. They helped me grow in my career and taught me a lot in workers compensation and health respectively. From Taylor Fry, I want to single out Ash Evans. He always takes the time to explain technical concepts to me, give me constructive feedback and show care for my career, making sure I’m getting a variety of work and the right work-life balance.
How my skill set evolved over my career … Just like every other actuary, I developed my technical skills first, but as I progressed in my career, soft skills in communication, project management, time management and leadership became more important.
The most interesting project I have worked on in my career and why … I’ve been fortunate to work on scheme reform projects for injury schemes in workers compensation and CTP. These are interesting because they’re more than simple updates of existing valuation models. You need to think about how the reform will impact the scheme, which may require additional modelling or analysis. There are also often behavioural impacts that aren’t easy to allow for. Ultimately, it comes down to judgment.
The most challenging project I have worked on and why? An analytics project where I had to understand customer behaviour in a loyalty program. Not only was the analysis technically challenging with lots of moving parts, but there were data issues and we had to turn it around quickly. It challenged me to think about how to best work with what you’ve got.
My best advice for younger actuaries … Technology is improving and the world is changing fast, influencing the issues that matter to our clients and areas we work. Be ready to adapt, learn new techniques or concepts and re-invent yourself, because the area where you start your career as an actuary will unlikely be the area where you finish your career.
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