Photo by Sterling Morris
What made you interested in finance?
When I was an undergraduate studying economics I read a book called Lives of the Laureates, which told the stories of 13 Nobel Prize winning economists. I especially liked the chapter about William F. Sharpe, who had won the prize for his pioneering work in asset pricing theory. He described what he saw as the strength of financial economics being its practical theory. I was captivated by his description and knew after that that I had caught the bug, so to speak.
Many individuals who study finance choose to build their career outside of academia. What attracted you to academics?
For a time, I considered a career in industry. However, I have always been drawn to academics for two reasons: research and teaching. I view these two endeavors not separately, but as joint and complementary activities in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the world around us. I have a strong passion for financial economics and very much enjoy sharing that with others. I find the mentoring relationship with students most satisfying as they discover for themselves the thrill of the pursuit of knowledge.
Why did you choose to come to the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business?
I am excited about coming to the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business for several reasons. I have been very impressed by the caliber of my future colleagues and students. I very much appreciate the vision of the school and its focus on quantitative excellence. I think these are essential skills in the modern world, and I am anxious to be in an environment where they are so highly valued. I am also attracted to Logan itself and to live and raise my family in such a beautiful place, all while having the great opportunity to create value for students. In my mind, it doesn't get any better than that.
As a part of this next generation of Huntsman faculty, what imprint do you think your generation will have on the higher-education landscape?
I think the world is changing in a fundamental way. There has been an absolute explosion of data. Factual knowledge is now nearly instantaneously available, but what is lacking is the skill set to make sense of all of the data. I strongly believe that quantitative skills such as computer programming and statistical analysis are a new form of literacy that are essential to success in the modern world. Going forward, business decision making will be an application of the scientific method. I look forward to being a part of that change, however modest my contribution.
When it comes to your research, what are you most passionate about?
I work in an area called market microstructure. We study the economics of the trading process in financial markets. I am passionate about understanding what factors influence the dynamics of prices, and how the strategic decisions of millions of agents impound information into prices. We have high-frequency data sets that are gigantic. Developing statistical tools that help us glean information from these data is a huge challenge, but one that I find endlessly satisfying.
What has been most rewarding to you as a teacher or researcher so far?
I view teaching and research as complementary processes of knowledge discovery. It is a thrill to discover new ideas that change the way one views the world. Helping others as they proceed through that process is the excitement of teaching. Discovering new facts in financial data that change the way researchers view the markets is the great payoff in research.
Who was your favorite professor as an undergraduate student? How did that professor shaped the way your professorial approach?
Professor William Carlisle. He taught me introductory microeconomics. He had a way of presenting the powerful ideas of economic theory in a way that freshmen could grasp and appreciate. These ideas have been a lens, through which I now view the world. I hope to be able to inspire students in a similar fashion, and to help others discover ideas that change the way they think about the world.
What is the strangest or most unusual thing that you experienced as an undergraduate or graduate student?
In graduate school, I found that some of the most valuable skills that I developed came from me working alone in my cubicle for hours and hours rather than from lectures or classes. I now view class room instruction as a means of helping students start down this path for themselves, and to give them some tools to ease the process. I found it strange that while I was being taught by professors much, much more intelligent than me, I could learn more by running simulations and writing computer programming code to understand a model on my own. The light came on for me only after this long and tedious process, but then I knew that I really understood.
What should we be emphasizing as we work with students at the Huntsman School of Business?
A few things come to mind: 1) honesty and ethics, but this should be obvious. 2) The power and wonder of markets. I think more students should come away from a business education with a certain kind of awe for the spontaneous organizing forces of markets. 3) Quantitative methods. These are skills that are now, and will be in greater and greater demand. These skills will help set apart students from the HSB.
What is your favorite book and how has it influenced your thinking and behavior?
Favorite book? That is too difficult! How about a poem that has recently had a strong influence on me? The poem is the The Man Watching by Rainier Maria Rilke. A few lines from that poem that strike me are:
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated as things do by some immense storm
We would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
I like the point of view of this poem. It reminds me to focus on the big problems - problems that matter. It gives me comfort to know that the great challenges of life make us stronger. That we come away from those experiences better for having had them. It helps me to define success not as winning or the honors of men, but as learning and growing. I believe that this is a more meaningful view of life.