From machine learning to asset pricing, the Carroll School of Management’s new crop of tenure-track faculty members are helping to change the way we think about finance and information systems. They bring to the Heights not only a catalogue of scholarly publications but also work experience at startups, Goldman Sachs, and the central banks of Denmark and the U.S. And they’re not afraid of a little adventure. Below, meet the four new assistant professors.
You might be anti-Semitic and not even know it. What’s more, it’s hurting your wallet. “Deep-rooted anti-Semitism makes present-day households distrust the financial sector unconsciously, hinders them from investing, and thus reduces their long-run wealth,” says Francesco D’Acunto.
That’s the kind of subject D’Acunto likes to explore. His expertise is in cultural finance, or the effect of societal norms on beliefs and financial decision-making. (His study on anti-Semitism will appear in the Review of Economic Studies.)
“My aim as a researcher is introducing real-life insights in abstract models to better understand financial decision-making,” says D’Acunto, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
D’Acunto also researches fintech and entrepreneurship. He co-authored “The Promises and Pitfalls of Robo-advising,” forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies. The paper is one of the first to examine a technology that is fast spreading around the world.
That research fuels D’Acunto’s teaching by giving him current, real-life examples to discuss in his basic finance courses. And in turn, he says, “I expect to obtain great insights from students on their experiences when making investment decisions,” which will inform his research.
Adam Jørring once spent a year living on a sailboat, sailing the South Pacific Ocean. He’s also worked for Goldman Sachs and the Danish Central Bank. But as a researcher, Jørring focuses on something a little more down to earth: “everyday finance,” he says. “That is, I study the behavior of households and firms in consumer credit markets. For example, I study how banks make money from credit cards by profiting when consumers forget to pay their bills on time.”
These are not small matters, limited to a spendthrift few. Even among “relatively sophisticated consumers,” he writes in one study, “simple and avoidable card fees are pervasive and persistent.”
In his Carroll School courses, Jørring plans to incorporate case studies and examples taken directly from his research. “One part of my research is focused on how consumers make costly financial mistakes,” he says, “and I hope to help my students avoid making those same mistakes.” Meanwhile, he seeks to learn from the students, who are often early adopters of new fintech apps, such as Venmo and Betterment.
Jørring’s Ph.D. in financial economics is a joint degree from the University of Chicago’s economics department and Booth School of Business.
Machine learning will enable banks to predict whether a customer will default, empower manufacturers to replace equipment before it fails, and clue in employers when an employee is about to quit, Mike Teodorescu told Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge. “I expect big data to become ubiquitous in the next decade,” he said. “Those who do not invest in it now will be left behind.”
Teodorescu is an expert on machine learning as well as technology innovation and adoption, and entrepreneurship. Of particular interest to him are the strategic use of patents by startups and within multinationals, applications of machine learning to firm strategy, and the ethics of machine learning in determining individual fates, such as in employment and lending.
As the author of several patents and the co-founder of the startup SurgiBox (which is bringing to market a medical device he calls an “operating room in a backpack”), Teodorescu is a bona fide entrepreneur, so he knows of what he teaches. But he is also a natural, and skilled, educator.
“Teaching has been a lifelong passion of mine,” says Teodorescu, whose Ph.D. is from Harvard Business School. “As the third generation of academics in my family, I see good teaching as a means to give back and to encourage others to share my passion for discovery.”
At age 16, Nancy Xu struck out on her own, left her native Hangzhou, China, and traveled to Seattle, where she finished high school before attending the University of Washington. She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. While there, she was also a visiting doctoral student at the New York University Stern School of Business, and she served as dissertation intern in the research and statistics group of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Also, she taught herself coding.
Anything else her Carroll School students should know about Xu? “I rescued and currently own a Maine Coon cat,” she says.
Xu’s research centers on asset pricing and financial econometrics. Her recent work examines the role of investor mood in international asset prices. “Unprecedented globalization has amplified the traditional channels through which risk is transmitted around the world,” she says. That means the quantity of risk is similar across borders. Building on that work, Xu has begun exploring how investor mood swings over time and propagates across countries.
Xu expects her teaching to inform her research. “Teaching business analytics, coding in particular,” she says, “could help me stay in touch with the frontier of these technical research methods.”
Patrick L. Kennedy, Morrissey College ’99, is a writer in Boston and the co-author of Bricklayer Bill: The Untold Story of the Workingman’s Boston Marathon.