Meray El-Khoury is the Chief Insurance Officer at MetLife Australia looking after 59 team members and a portfolio size of over $1 billion in annual premiums. As a qualified actuary, an accomplished sales professional and end-to-end product and pricing executive, Meray is equally as results-focused as she is ambitious. Meray has been tracking well in her first C-level role and nothing is slowing her down. Expecting her first child in May 2022, Meray is as focused on her career now as she was 10 years ago.
My team and I sat down with Meray and together, we all came away feeling energised and empowered - she oozes confidence and passion.
Meray is one of four children and started work (unofficially) at 10 years of age, working in her parent’s fruit shop. She was always encouraged to study hard from a young age and while she did not necessarily participate in all extracurricular activities at school, Meray favoured studying and was challenged at home by her outgoing and inclusive family.
All through school, Meray wanted to be an accountant, however once she achieved grades that were better than she expected, someone propositioned that she could do more than be an accountant. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Meray entered a 6-year actuarial study journey.
Work – Early Life
Concurrently to studying actuarial science, Meray first worked for APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) in a graduate position. While this wasn’t necessarily a deliberate career move, it was a valuable one for which Meray is grateful. After 2 years at APRA, Meray took her first deliberate career move to MLC. The passion to get closer to the end customer was being realised while helping her (then) partner with financial advice.
Meray started at MLC in the actuarial team and truly felt alive when she presented findings to the business or when working on customer strategy. Meray talks fondly of her decision to get into relationship management and how focused she was on it. She knew that it wasn’t that common to hire actuaries for distribution, so worked in an actuarial capacity for a while to gain the networks and credibility to really step into the distribution role.
The Value of Sponsors
Meray knew that actuaries were not typically hired into distribution or relationship-based roles, however through working directly with a small handful of sponsors she was given an awesome opportunity. When asked about sponsors, Meray shares her advice on sponsors:
Be confident in your abilities and direct in what you want to achieve;
Make the relationship 2-way;
Be open to hearing advice and the strengths they see in you (some of which you may not see in yourself);
Network and cultivate face-to-face connections; and
Avoid formal structures and let connection flow.
Making Career Decisions
Meray seems laser focused on her abilities and career direction and shares that it’s this clarity which has helped her on her career journey (along with a supportive partner, friends and great sponsors!).Her superpower is her willingness to try anything and not regret it later! Once Meray became clear on her aspirations to be an influential senior leader, she then looked at her skillset and worked out where the gaps were. She sees her skills more like a portfolio, critically assesses these skills and identifies which ones she needs to bolster to ultimately achieve further momentum in her career. When being considered for her current role, Meray felt the role was broad and deep enough for her to make an impact at a senior level. Although not a specialist in that area (i.e. Product), Meray had enough experience to be able to speak, lead and influence the team and help them act strategically. While she admits to often feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of a new role, she enjoys the challenge of learning something new.
Motivations in Work
Meray is incredibly clear about what motivates her, which has served her well. She wants to be fulfilled in her role and she requires to be challenged and paid well in her role.
She seemed to down play how much she does for others, although it became clear that Meray’s passion for assisting up-and-coming talent is a real motivator as well.
Meray feels strongly about supporting gender equality. That said, she does feel it’s unfair when people say females do not put the ladder down and pull others up, which is certainly not Meray’s experience. She is passionate about women heading into motherhood at pace, taking their chosen amount of time off and then picking up where they left off! Slowing down to have her first baby was not an option and Meray reflects on friends who regretted not raising their hands for promotions or different roles.
Views on Work/Life Balance
Meray guards her personal time fiercely and tends to work odd hours to ensure she sets time aside to do personal things. At the end of the day, Meray values output and contribution over anything else and focuses on efficiency rather than long hours and brute strength.
Meray loves dancing and karaoke and ideally a combination of both. Even heavily pregnant, you will still find her at the local karaoke bar!
Meray is a formidable woman who it’s not difficult to feel inspired by. She is super confident in her abilities, while remaining fun and humble at the same time. I love meeting women who are equally strong as they are feminine and Meray encapsulates this image.
What I learnt from Meray:
Sponsors who understand your strengths and career direction are super powerful;
Say ‘yes’, and work it out later; and
Never cap your salary or let others tell you what you are worth to them.
Victoria is an Executive Search Specialist, entrepreneur, Founder and Managing Director of Parity Consulting; a thought leader, wife and mother, blogger, and a wine snob! She believes in life by design and is blessed to have found her career home in the training & recruitment industry, founding Parity Consulting on the belief that the candidate and client must be equal within the hiring process.
Parity Consulting works with clients who embrace diverse and inclusive environments and empower their teams to bring their authentic whole self to work. We encourage people with different beliefs, abilities, backgrounds and life experiences to contact us.