Being part of the national conversation is all in a day's work for Diana Mousina

AMP's Diana Mousina discusses the world of economics and why confidence is key to getting ahead.
Sara Allen

Livewire Markets

The role of an economist means many things to people. The ability to decipher market activity. Using trends and patterns to predict future activity. For Diana Mousina, senior economist at AMP, it also means taking part in the national conversation and being able to have a voice in determining national policies. It’s easy to forget that budgets, policies and the dreaded rate hikes all come back to economics.

“Even though you might not realise it, these forces are shaping your savings, your superannuation and the cost of living. I think it’s really important to be part of that and help make policy as optimal as it can be. It’s also important from a central bank point of view because central banks still listen to what the market and economists are saying,” Mousina says.

She is passionate about economics – and you could call it a hard-won career.

When she started as a graduate at Commonwealth Bank, it was so unusual to include graduates in the economics team that she had to persuade the Graduate Steering Team to help her. These days, it’s the norm.

In this wire, Mousina discusses the debate between a hard and soft landing for a recession, her biggest investment and the challenges facing women in economics.

Livewire is pleased to feature Diana Mousina as part of its International Women’s Day coverage profiling established and up-and-coming female investment leaders in Australia. We are dedicated to featuring more female chief investment officers, portfolio managers and analysts in our articles, podcasts and videos.

Senior Economist Diana Mousina

The portfolio manager in brief

  • Name: Diana Mousina
  • Title: Senior Economist
  • Firm: AMP
  • Years in the industry: 13
  • Speciality: Macro-economics, with a focus on Australia
  • Biggest personal portfolio holding: Property (primary residence and investment)
  • One thing very few people know: Diana loves to bake cakes and doughs for her family, particularly Russian Piroshski (a sweet dough filled with jam)
  • Guilty secret pleasure: Hallmark movies at Christmas
Diana baking with her daughter. 

Starting out – how Mousina become one of Australia’s select group of female economists

We're beginning to see, and hear from, more senior female economists in Australia. But it’s been a slow journey. In fact, April last year marked the first time an Australian woman has been elevated to the role of Deputy Governor (Michelle Bullock) for the RBA.

From that perspective, perhaps it was a surprise that Mousina was driven to become an economist since she graduated from university, pushing the Commonwealth Bank graduate steering team to help her join its team of economists.

She was obviously successful, setting a precedent for many, many graduates to follow in her footsteps. But it is perhaps telling that at the time, her team used to joke that she brought down the average age level of the team a lot.

Mousina spent five years at Commonwealth Bank before deciding to apply for a role at AMP, where she was one of only a few women candidates. The successful applicant, Mousina has held a senior role in the AMP economics team since early 2016.

She highlights AMP Chief Economist Shane Oliver as a fantastic mentor. Some other economists she also recommends and has learnt from include Commonwealth Bank economist Gareth Aird, Viktor Shvets from Macquarie, and independent economist Chris Richardson.

When the biggest barrier to success is psychological

Like many others who have worked hard and risen to senior levels, Mousina is no stranger to imposter syndrome and says confidence has been her biggest challenge.

“It’s a trait a lot of young females have. I also feel like I have sometimes have to say certain things to seem more credible. It’s something I’m still trying to work through and I’ve had mentors work with me specifically on that,” she says.

Confidence is often an underestimated requirement for career success.

“While you need to know what you’re talking about, people will take you seriously if you say it with confidence. I’ve noticed a lot of men in the industry speak with confidence and you are more inclined to believe them,” Mousina says.

As someone who speaks to the media and investors regularly, Mousina has had to learn to project confidence – even if she doesn’t feel it. That's something she suspects holds many women back from senior roles in economics.

The gender gap in economics

While confidence is one aspect Mousina thinks relates to the gender gap, she also believes a lack of awareness of the roles out there is another.

“Perhaps we need to help women understand what kinds of things they could be doing, the different roles that exist across the industry. Maybe it’s a matter of women not knowing what is available and just viewing it as a male-dominated industry when it is changing rapidly,” she says.

While Mousina notes there is a lot of debate about quotas and similar initiatives, she says this simply emphasises there is a problem and the industry is testing different options to fix it.

“We don’t have enough female fund managers. We don’t have enough female CIOs. The only way to change that is to bring more women into the industry and I think it’s wrong to suggest women don’t want to do those roles. I think it’s more that they don’t know they can or they assume there’s some barrier to get there. There’s no barrier. They just need to apply,” she says.

Looking at the big issues

As an economist, Mousina is jointly focused on understanding the present and on modelling potential future scenarios. And the prospect of recession is, of course, one of the dominant global conversations currently.

Markets are pricing a higher likelihood of a soft landing, but Mousina believes it isn’t necessarily clear what we’ll get. She sees it as helpful to look at what's happening in the US because it drives global markets.

“I think there is enough strength in the economy to avoid a bad economic outcome and inflation is likely to surprise on the downside. We saw repricing and expectations regulate higher in January but in the coming months, I think inflation will move down and the Fed won’t need to go as hard as expected which will be good for the economy and share markets,” she says.

“We’re experiencing one of the fastest tightening cycles in monetary policy in decades. If you get even a 5% rise in share markets, that’s a good outcome.”

Mousina suspects the increase in inflation in January will be a one-off and prices will deteriorate from here – after all, commodity prices have returned to early 2021 levels.

“By the middle of this year, the inflation environment will look quite different. Especially for Australia. We’ve been so concerned about potential wage-price spirals, which aren’t transpiring. The wages data for the December quarter was actually a big mess relative to expectations,” she says.

An economist’s view on where the opportunities might lie

Following Mousina’s expectations for inflation and projected strength in the US economy, it makes sense she thinks the US market could be poised for recovery – it’s down around 15% from highs.

She’s less optimistic about the tech sector, though.

And as for Australia?

“I think Australian share markets will still do well this year. It’s already back to highs though so in the shorter term, Australia will probably underperform the US a bit,” Mousina says.

Would you like to hear more of Diana Mousina’s insights? Check out Signal or Noise

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Sara Allen
Content Editor
Livewire Markets

Sara is a Content Editor at Livewire Markets. She is a passionate writer and reader with more than a decade of experience specific to finance and investments. Sara's background has included working at ETF Securities, BT Financial Group and...

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