An interview with Christina Leung

Ms Christina Leung is currently a Principal Economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER).  She has over fourteen years’ experience and has worked at ASB Bank and the Reserve Bank as a Senior Economic Analyst. She is a well-known economist, with her expert opinion appearing in the New Zealand Herald, TVNZ, and even The AM Show.

When asked about her motivations for becoming an economist, Christina Leung goes back to when she first moved to New Zealand when she was very young. It took her parents longer than expected to find a job after moving to New Zealand, and having to rely only on savings at a time of high inflation in the early 1990s was a scary prospect given that inflation eats away at the purchasing power of savings. This was around the time when the Reserve Bank introduced inflation targeting to bring down inflation, so Christina’s parents viewed the central bank as a highly prestigious institution. For Christina, the fact that the Reserve Bank was in Wellington provided her with the opportunity to move away from home while still making her parents proud. Therefore, she set her sights on becoming an economist at the Reserve Bank.

Christina Leung gained her undergraduate in economics and marketing at the University of Auckland and did an internship at the Reserve Bank before completing her post-graduate honours degree in Economics. After much dedication and hard work, she went on to get her dream job at the Reserve Bank. It was at this job that she first gained experience as an economist. She said: “In a sense, it all worked out in the end.”

After five years of working at the Reserve Bank in Wellington, she had the opportunity to move back to Auckland to join the expanding ASB Economics team where she was a bank economist for five years. Currently, Leung works at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), where she is a Principal Economist. She leads the analysis of the New Zealand economy, with the production of the flagship NZIER publication Quarterly Predictions. In addition to that, she also does a range of consulting projects. A few of the projects she recently led include examining labour shortages for district councils, as well as assessing the benefits of decongesting various traffic networks for a business consortium. She enjoys the variety of working on a wide range of different projects.

So what does the typical day of an economist look like? To that, Leung responds by saying: “There isn’t really a typical day, but maybe I can explain what I did yesterday.” Having flown down to Wellington in the morning for some client meetings, Leung caught up with some work on current projects along the way. This was followed by a presentation to members of the NZIER on the New Zealand economy. To top it all off, she caught up with some workmates as well!

According to Leung, being an economist is also a very rewarding job, despite the busy schedule. She also talks about some of her career highlights. In particular, she vividly remembers presenting to the Reserve Bank on monetary policy. In addition, she also enjoys her live TV features with The AM Show, which she describes as “a good challenge.” On the other hand, when asked about any regrets in her career so far, she says that there are none because every experience has helped her to learn and grow.

So, what advice would Leung give to any high school students that are keen on pursuing economics as a career? Firstly, the biggest thing, she says, is to remember to keep an open mind in all areas of your life. Don’t be afraid to say yes – pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and seeking opportunities will allow you to grow not just career-wise, but also as a person. Most importantly, Leung says, “you don’t have to be the smartest person out there, you just always need to be interested in the world around you.”



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