Leni Hunter - Manager, Modelling Team, Economics Department
Leni Hunter started work at the Reserve Bank as an Analyst in the Modelling Team – ten years later she is managing the team! “After completing a Masters Degree in Economics at the University of Auckland, I joined the Bank’s graduate programme,” she says.
“Over the last decade I have had a wide variety of roles and no shortage of interesting work.” There has been steady career progression for Leni at the Bank. After three years as an Analyst in the Modelling Team, she became a Senior Analyst in the Issues Team and was promoted to Manager of that team in 2002.
“In 2005 I moved to the Financial Stability Department as an Adviser where one of my main tasks was to be editor of the Financial Stability Report,” she says. “As well as macroeconomic and financial analysis, the Bank has an important role in financial system regulation and bank supervision. Working in a different department allowed me to learn more about this area.
“I moved back to the Economics Department to be Manager of the Modelling Team in early 2008.” She says that when she started at the Bank, she was most surprised at how friendly it was.
“I’d been expecting something a lot more stuffy and difficult for me to fit into. There is a lot of importance placed on maintaining an open work environment in which ideas can be circulated and debated easily. “ She credits the Bank for giving its staff good opportunities, a supportive environment to work in and a genuine interest in their development. Much of the training is on the job, but there are also opportunities for both in-house and external training,” she says.
“The RBNZ is part of the international central bank community, and as such shares research and perspectives with other economists around the world. It operates at the forefront of international central bank modelling practice, and is a great place for both technical-minded economists and those who prefer to interact directly with market participants.
“The small size coupled with the variety of activity means that there’s always something to learn, which is great. I like the fact that I get to work with motivated, smart people on interesting topics that matter.”
In the mornings I often listen to the radio headlines to get an idea of say, overnight market developments, a particular commentator’s view, or just what’s topical for that day. When I arrive at work I might follow that up by looking briefly through market reports and our own internal monitoring reports. While my team doesn’t have a monitoring role, I need to keep in touch with what’s going on in order to be able to provide views and advice on our forecasts.
Some time in the morning I might have a catch-up meeting with a member of the Modelling Team, which is an informal chat about how their projects are going, what’s been going on with the team and department, how they’re going with their training and development, and what I’ve been working on. We also have team meetings once a week which is a set time for our team to catch up on each other’s progress and exchange views and ideas about what’s been going on more broadly. For example, we might talk about the current economic outlook, how we model the effect of oil prices, a new model that someone has developed, or a conference that someone has been to.
Almost every day I set aside time to either read and comment on research or forecast work, or say, an external report like the Financial Stability Report or Monetary Policy Statement. At the moment I’m also working with another team member on how we model oil prices, and the affect of oil on the economy. Some of the work being done in the team will end up as a Discussion Paper or in a journal, and team members are often in contact with economists outside the RBNZ to discuss research. The longer term project for the whole team is a switch from our current forecasting model to what’s called a “dynamic stochastic general equilibrium” model, so there is a bit of work to see us through the transition period, and the team is learning about the new model and how to use it. Once a week I attend Monetary Policy Committee, and once every three months our team works with the Forecasting Team to present forecasts to the Committee.
Every now and then we have team building events, and each year the Economics Department goes away on an overnight trip somewhere. The trip is a great way to get to know your colleagues better, especially ones who you might not work with on a day-to-day basis. This year the destination has been kept secret – but we know it will probably be somewhere nearby and involve staying at a back-packers.