Macquarie’s Head of Threat Intelligence, Global Security, Alan Leung has spent the last decade analysing, planning, preparing for and reacting to key security and geopolitical risks that could impact the organisation. Alan describes his journey into security management, the importance of communication, and explains why diversity, equity and inclusion continues to be at the heart of Macquarie’s culture.
Originally from Hong Kong, Alan grew up in California, where he studied political science at university, followed by international relations at postgraduate level. He began his career as a research analyst at a Washington think tank, then as a project manager in risk consulting, where he analysed political risks around the world.
Time spent living, studying and working in different parts of the world has influenced Alan’s outlook—both personally and professionally.
“Having a global perspective is something I really value. Meeting people from a host of diverse backgrounds and cultures helps me empathise with different views and has ensured that I am not dominated by my own biases. Understanding who I am talking to and what makes them tick—what they really care about and what keeps them awake at night—is essential to being able to deliver for my clients.”
This viewpoint has also played an important role in developing Alan’s belief in the importance of communication—as well as his own skills in this area.
With his team, Alan oversees everything from rapid response to medium- and long-term strategic work. “Our time is split between what we call 'tactical' issues, which is the immediate short-term, and 'strategic' ones, which is anything longer than that, where there could be potential implications for how we do business.
“Our goal is to help Macquarie do what it does best, by protecting our people, looking after different kinds of risk, and providing the resources and solutions needed to keep the business safe and secure.”
The team’s purpose is to understand global threats and challenges, and what these might mean for decision-making. Alan explains: “When considering new information and data, we regularly ask ourselves ‘So what?’, closely followed by ‘Now what?’—what do we have to do, think about or discuss, either within our security team or, more broadly, with stakeholders across and outside the organisation?”
Then comes the wider communication: “Whatever the crisis, it always comes back to some kind of conversation—whether over Zoom or a coffee, in a formal client meeting or by email, communication is a constant theme.”
Alan and his team handle a staggering amount of data pertaining to risk analysis and geopolitical change, and a key area of focus is digital transformation that will improve data literacy and build capabilities across Macquarie.
“We’re building our infrastructure so that we can pull, store, extract and visualise data more effectively.”
Crossing many time zones, as many Macquarie roles do, the team also deal with 24/7 news and current events, keeping a watching brief on threats and emerging trends worldwide. So, wellbeing is an important concern for Alan: “It can be a challenge to take time out because, when something happens, it’s often unpredictable. It’s important to have a routine around things that have nothing to do with work – for me personally I find this in a number of ways such as exercise and meditation.”
At the outset of his career, Alan didn’t realise that there were opportunities like the ones he was offered at Macquarie within the corporate sector. “I didn’t know that companies had a need for people to look at geopolitics. I didn't know that these jobs existed or that this could be a career path.”
He expands: “Many students similarly don’t realise that if they have a politics, philosophy or regional studies qualification, companies have these kind of roles and value this kind of background. And that there is a career pathway and trajectory for professional growth – it’s not ‘just a job’.”
Alan feels that the opportunities that he has had at Macquarie to define the scope of the work done by his team, to branch out and constantly push the envelope, form a major part of his positive experience at the company. “I am energised by being able to create meaningful impact and doing work that I enjoy. So much is possible at Macquarie.”
Alan’s world view has had a positive impact on his work as co-chair of Fusion, Macquarie’s multicultural employee network group, which seeks to connect and empower colleagues of different races, ethnicities, cultures and faiths.
“As an immigrant to two different countries – first the US and now the UK – a lot of my experience has been as an ethnic or cultural minority. I've lived most of my life in places where most people don't look like me, don't sound like me, and that has shaped my experience. What I am passionate about, in a grass roots leadership role, is working to move the needle, to continue to raise awareness at Macquarie of cultural, religious and ethnic inclusivity.”
This year, Macquarie celebrates East and South East Asia Heritage month in September, followed by Black History Month in October. Cultural diversity and racial equity continue to be a priority across the organisation and a number of initiatives are underway to support efforts including continuous improvements to recruitment and promotion processes, sponsorship and development programmes, and the important work carried out by employee network groups.
Alan explains, “We are continuing to work with our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team to empower our people of all backgrounds, and our recruiting teams on attraction, recruitment and hiring efforts. We’re also ramping up our engagement strategy, with guides to staff on, for example, how to have honest conversations about race. It’s all about education and action. People at Macquarie always ask, ‘What can I do?’.”
Alan concludes by looking to the future, underlining the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in building talent and expertise across Macquarie’s teams: “Diversity plays a vital part in people choosing which companies they want to work with. We’re continuing to think about and evolving the ways in which we align our organisational values with those of our employees, and how this will help us to attract diverse talent.”
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