Marianna Pekar

Chief Data Scientist
Wellington Office

As our Chief Data Scientist, Marianna provides outstanding intellectual leadership to our data analytics team and the wider firm, ensuring that a modern, innovative data capability underlies all of the services we provide our clients.

Marianna has extensive experience designing, building, and validating high-quality financial and statistical models for both public and private-sector clients. Her colleagues and clients value her highly for her consistently top-quality, innovative work, and she’s central to what we like to call the ‘analytical grunt’ component of our firm’s data science capability, helping ensure we’re able to bring acute insights to any data challenges our clients may have.

Although it brings a raft of problems, the continuing digitisation of our world also brings some wonderful opportunities to improve people’s lives, and Marianna’s world-class data science expertise helps ensure MartinJenkins can support our clients to seize those opportunities.

She believes that, given limited resources, providing decision makers with the right evidence in the most convincing and understandable way can make a real difference in many people's lives – for example, in addressing chronic problems such as child poverty and social inequality.

An area of focus for Marianna is expanding her knowledge in the fields of computational social science, which applies computational techniques such as simulations to social phenomena, and ‘human data science’, the emerging discipline that tackles the messy, nuanced character of much human data, such as healthcare data.

Marianna believes that while data about individuals' lives needs to be handled carefully and interpreted cautiously, data scientists can add significant value to the study of human data through collaborating with researchers, incorporating qualitative research, and providing interdisciplinary knowledge.

Previous roles

Marianna has worked across a number of sectors, in particular finance, government, health, energy, and infrastructure. She understands the importance of data for addressing regulatory challenges, and she’s seen those challenges from both sides – the regulators and the regulated.

Before joining us in 2021, Marianna was Principal Data Scientist with New Zealand’s Social Wellbeing Agency. There she provided expert guidance in key fields of data science to the SWA’s Analytics Team, led major data assignments, and developed and maintained a range of data analytics networks. She worked with a wide range of data users, including other government agencies, NGOs, iwi, academics, and researchers.

Earlier, as part of a small management team, Marianna helped KPMG establish its own data science arm, its Lighthouse Centre of Excellence for Data Analytics. At KPMG Marianna worked with a range of public and private-sector agencies and NGOs, including large government departments and major banks.

Before her time at KPMG, Marianna was a data analyst with the Commerce Commission, where she supported the development of several new regulatory regimes, including electricity distribution and transmission. With the Gas Industry Co, the body responsible for the market regulation of New Zealand’s gas sector, her work included developing algorithms for gas allocation to customers.

Academic background

Born in Hungary, Marianna speaks several languages, and she has recently been learning te reo Māori. Her academic background was in statistics, quantitative analysis, finance, and economics. She gained an MSc in Economics, Finance and Public Sector Management from Hungary’s leading business school, Corvinus University in Budapest, where she attended on a full scholarship.

While at Corvinus Marianna also won a further scholarship that allowed her to complete a Master of Business, in Finance, at the University of Otago. It was while studying in Dunedin that Marianna met her husband, and they now live in Wellington with their two young children.