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Showing posts from February, 2009

What You Need For A Job In Investment Management

When this commercial came out, I thought it was great. The fact that it starred the king of the B-Movies, Bruce Campbell (a.k.a. "The Chin") was just icing on the cake. But it's the sort of conundrum that's faced by almost every undergrad trying to get a job in the Investment Banking or Investment Management field:
"If you have it, you don't need it; If you need it, you don't have it. If you have it, you need more of it. If you have more of it, you don;t need less of it....

... The point is, if you've never had any of it -- ever, people just seem to know.

So, if you don't have it, don't try to fake it, because you will get embarrassed. So the trick is to get things on your resume that demonstrate that even if you don't have "real" experience, you at least have the personal characteristics (and some reasonably related background that make you likely to get it.

Of course, the only reason I really did this post is that I wanted…

If Dogbert Was a Bailed Out CEO

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Some of the political theater surrounding the auto bailouts was pretty ridiculous. In particular, the kerfuffle about them taking corporate jets vs. driving vs. flying coach was a bit much.

So I thought this Dilbert cartoon was pretty good:

Diversification Across Risk Premiums

Things have been crazy lately - we have two speakers this week at Unknown University's College of Business, and I'm involved in both visits. In addition, I'm getting ready for my CFA prep class and trying to get a paper out for a conference. So, blogging has been light this week (and will probably continue to be spotty for the rest of the week).

But in the meantime, here's an interesting paper to chew on. We were recently talking about different risk premia (size, market/book, momentum, etc...) in class. This paper, "Portfolio of Risk Premia: A New Approach to Diversification" by Remy Brian, Frank Nielsen, and Dan Stefek paper that takes the idea of risk premia combines it with a equally-weighted portfolio weighting scheme across assets with exposures to the various premiums. Traditional approaches of structuring policy portfolios for strategic asset allocation have not provided the full potential of diversification. Portfolios based upon a 60/40 allocat…

UCONN Basketball Coach Explains Basic Economics to Reporter

It's not that often that I get to see two of my favorite topics (UCONN basketball and executive compensation) collide (and on Youtube, yet).

After a recent game, during the press conference, UCONN coach Jim Calhouh was asked a question by "freelance journalist and political activist) Ken Kreyeske, who apparently working for some outfit called “The Hartford News" . He asked Calhoun
"Considering that you're the highest paid state employee and that there's a two billion dollar budget deficit, do you think tat"
Calhoun doesn't even let him finish, and responds, "Not a dime back." He then goes on to explain that he actually makes quite a bit more than that, and that the UCONN program actually results in a significant surplus ($12 million a year) that flows back to the university.

But I love the smackdown he puts on the reporter. At one pint, he asks him, "You're really not that stupid, are you?", followed by "My best advice…

A Quantitative Approach to Tactical Asset Allocation

I'm not a big fan of market timing and/or technical trading rules. From what I've seen, the empirical evidence casts a lot of doubt on their effectiveness.

But I just read a very interesting paper titled "A Quantitative Approach to Tactical Asset Allocation", by Mebane Faber. Here's the abstract:
The purpose of this paper is to present a simple quantitative method that improves the risk-adjusted returns across various asset classes. A simple moving average timing model is tested since 1900 on the United States equity market before testing since 1973 on other diverse and publicly traded asset class indices, including the Morgan Stanley Capital International EAFE Index (MSCI EAFE), Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI), National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts Index (NAREIT), and United States government 10-year Treasury bonds. The approach is then examined in a tactical asset allocation framework where the empirical results are equity-like returns with b…

The Slings and Arrows of Research

Sometimes research is not for the faint of heart.

Yesterday, I got a rejection letter on a piece I'd done with a former student. I sat on her doctoral committee (not her chair- just a member) , and this was one of her essays. It had already been rejected at a two top-tier journal, and a second-tier one. Now we send it to a lower-tier one. After all, better to have it published somewhere than nowhere.

Then I got a phone call from a second coauthor (another student who's committee I'd been on, but at another school). I'd spent the last couple of weeks putting a data set together for a project we'd discussed. Unfortunately, the initial analysis turned up a dry well - there wasn't anything remotely interesting.

So, since the approach seemed promising (although it didn't work out on this data set, we'll use it to examine another topic. We might as well use the approach that we developed, even if it didn't pan out for this data. If it turns up not…

Our New Travel Plan

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Unknown University is going through some budget cuts. Since I'm planning on going to the upcoming Eastern Finance Association meeting in April, I checked out our university's current travel plan. It didn't look too good:


Ah well - everything old is new again. In college I hitchhiked 17 miles to campus each way for several years. I don't recall any alleged killers, but I did meet a lot of people who offered me weed (or more often, asked me if I had any). This includes memorable one time I got picked up by a 250 pound, muscle-short wearing, fu-manch wearing, bald-headed biker driving a Crown Vic late 70 model) with a Harley strapped to the back. I was hitching from Northeast Connecticut to the Rutgers campus to chase teh latest object of my misguided affection. By the time I got there (he was driving right by the campus by happy coincidence), I was woozy and had the munchies from the second-hand smoke (I no longer partook by that point - I'd gotten my crazy o…

Finance Profesors' Salaries?

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One of the most common questions people email me is "how much do finance professors make?

The Annual AACSB salary survey is the definitive source for business school faculty salaries. Here's the most important table from the report - it shows the mean salaries for new doctorates for the major business disciplines



The figures above are for 9-month salaries. At research schools, summer research support can add another 10-20% to that, and there are also opportunities to pick up additional $$ teaching over the summer. However, at teaching oriented schools, there typically isn't summer support, and summer teaching money is also much lower.

For years, Finance professors got the highest salaries across all business disciplines. That's changed in the last few years, with accounting salaries pulling ahead. The increase in accounting new-hire salaries is likely due to smaller numbers of accounting PhD's being graduated and a lot of retirements in their field. But sti…

The Graduate Assisitant

In my darker moments, I'd like to put one of these on MY grad assistant.

But then, I had a similar idea back in graduate school. Back then, we still worked on an IBM mainframe, and I thought these would be good fit for the computer operators who often took a couple of hours to load the blasted tapes for jobs we were running on stock market data.


I particularly like the "product liability announcement"
...side effects may include learned helplessness, PTSD, incontinence, emotional outbursts, inexplicable crying, counter-control, twitching, diarrhea, impotence, sterility, and transient global amnesia"
Our new "revolutionary innovation" is to introduce clickers in the classroom. I wonder if we could make them a package deal with these?

A Collection Of Study Tips For The CFA Level 2 Exam

We're now well into the countdown for the CFA Level 2 exam in June. In fact, I'm about to teach a few sections of the CFA prep class I teach in a nearby city. So, the exam (and the preparations for it) have been on my mind, and I thought I'd start putting down some tips on how to approach the beast.
First off, don't take it lightly. Although a good number of people pass Level 1 with only a month or two of studying, realize that the Level 2 exam is much more difficult. While pass rates are similar for Levels 1 and 2, the pass rates for Level two are based on a much more select pool- all people sitting for the Level 2 exam are in the group who've already taken and passed the Level 1 exam. So, treat it with a lot more respect than Level 1. The best description of the difference is that the L1 exam is "a mile and a foot deep" while the L2 exam is "a mile wide and a mile deep". A smart undergrad from a good program will probably reco…

Getting Students To Prepare For Class

This semester, my advanced corporate finance class is going better than it ever done before. The class is about 80% case-based (the rest is lectures used to support the cases), so having the students come to class prepared is the main determinant as to whether the class goes well or not: If they've read and thoroughly analyzed the case before coming to class, leading the discussion is easy. If they haven't, it can be deadly dull and frustrating.

So, what's the difference this time around?

At the beginning of every class, I flip a coin (usually a quarter). A student calls it. At the beginning of the semester, I told them "If you call it right, you win - you get to demonstrate your knowledge; If you don't I win because I don't have to grade anything". If they "win", they get a brief one or two question quiz. The questions are generally very straightforward and test their general knowledge of the case, like "what was the market reac…

Soda Made From Cow Urine?

You can't make this stuff up, and it's too bizarre to pass up without comment:
Does your Pepsi lack pep? Is your Coke not the real thing? India's Hindu nationalist movement apparently has the answer: a new soft drink made from cow urine.
Read the whole thing here.

Whenever I See things like this, it reminds me of something that Malcolm Muggeridge (the British theologian and satirist) once said: "Being a satirist is tough sometimes. You work very hard to make up a humorous fictional situation in which to place a person. And then they go ahead and do something far more stupid and comical than anything you could conjure up. "

Wikinvest - Wikis Meet Investing

Here's an interesting cross-breeding of Internet technology and financial information: A wiki-style resource for investors called Wikinvest. In case the term is unfamiliar to you (other than Wikipedia, that is) a wiki is an Internet community where participants can load pages up on various topics and edit pages put up by others. Ideally, it serves as a self-editing source of information, where experts correct mistakes posted by those less informed. Wikinvest has the following areas:
Information on companies (0ver 2200 posted to date)A Concepts section, covering topics ranging from industry-specific areas like Technology and the Internet and Energy to "Green Issues)ACommodities section (i.e. metals, energy, grains, etc.) An area coveringFunds and Indices (a handful of ETFs and 37 different indices, from the S&P to Baltic Dry Goods) And, of course, Global Markets, ranging from interest rates to investing in Brazil. It's not a source of data, but rather a collection o…

One More Thing Off My Desk

I just spent the last 2-3 weeks putting together a data set for a paper with a former student. Ten minutes ago, I sent it off to him. Now it's his problem for a while.

That's the nice thing about working with coauthors - you get to hand work off.

Of course, all this means is that I get to work on another project while I wait for this one to come back. I have several that coauthors have handed off to me. So, it all works out, I guess.

Enough bloggery - back to work.

This Reminds Me Of My Past Life

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Before becoming an academic, I worked a succession of jobs that didn't suit me, including selling financial services (insurance, mutual funds, etc...), being a headhunter (the executive placement type, not the shrunken head type), and working as an orderly in a locked inpatient adolescent psychiatric ward (which was probably the best possible preparation for working in academia).

But my least favorite job was being a tax collector for the state. I spent my days calling people up and threatening them with dire things if they didn't pay the sales tax they'd collected. So this Dilbert cartoon really hit home:



I think I'll keep this one above my desk to set me straight whenever I start griping about how hard my day is.

Stylin at the Cancer Clinic

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Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the Unknown Son's Chemotherapy is that his hair has fallen completely out. Everyone says it increases our resemblance. But, as he often reminds me, "Daddy, at least MINE will grow back".

So, I looked around on the web, and found this company JKaye Designs (actually, a one-lady shop) that makes colorful surgeons caps. Yesterday, he showed up at the clinic wearing a cap in this pattern:


I wore one with multiple Snoopy characters on it, but unfortunately it's out of stock, so I don;t have a picture. And the Unknown Daughter has this one on order:



Unfortunately, we can't convince the Unknown Wife to wear one.

In any event, if you know anyone undergoing chemo who wants to dress up their noggin, give JKaye Designs some business. A small one fits a kid pretty well.

Could Blogging Have Stopped Madoff?

Here's a very interesting piece from the New York Stock Exchange's blog:
...Certainly, any failure to convince others was not due to lack of effort. Perhaps Mr. Markopolos lacked only an effective medium to communicate his warning. Here's a thought experiment: What would have happened if Mr. Markopolos had blogged his analysis? That is, what if he had posted the entire piece on a blog, under his name or a pseudonym?
RTWT here

I think the blogger has a point. True, blogging wasn't available back in the late 1990's. But if it were, my guess is that a blog post like the one he muses about would have been picked up and passed around from trading desk to trading desk, and eventually gotten aired by a major news outlet. When a story like this "goes viral", it's hard to stop. And as a card-carrying financial economist, I typically fall on the side of "More Information is Good".

Finally, who knew the NYSE had a blog. Verrrrryyyyy Interesting.

Chemo Weeks Bring Teh Crazy

It's a chemo week for the Unknown Son, so things are a bit on the crazy side. While I don't usually get into the details too often, I thought it might be instructive to walk you through a typical chemo week.

U.S. gets the chemo every day for five days (the clinic where he goes is only open on weekdays), so we make the 45 minute drive every day. We leave the house at 7:30, armed with a backpack full of whatever his latest video obsession is - for the moment, it's classic Pink Panther (the cartoons, not the movies).
Monday's are the long days - he first has to get his fluids up to snuff, so they take about 2 hours to put in lots and lots of saline. Then they start the chemo (two separate drugs, proceeded and followed by various other meds to protect him from side effects) usually around noon or so. I get the morning shift, and the Unknown Wife relieves me around noon (after her Ladies Bible Study) and takes the afternoon slot, which allows me to go into my office for …

And Now a Word From Our Sponsors

I just thought I'd throw this out - UConn (one of my alma maters) is now ranked #1 in the country for both their men's and women's basketball teams (and the men just spanked #7 Louiville - by 17 points).

Go Huskies!

"Bonuses" and "Maluses"

One of the problems with bonuses is that they create asymmetric payoffs - there's typically an upside for some actions, but no downside (yes, I know, there's the settling up in the labor market, etc., but that's a story for another piece). To deal with this, at least one firm (UBS) has started using "maluses" along with bonuses
"Just as bonuses (Latin for “good”) are paid out for good performance, maluses (“bad”) will be meted out if the bank subsequently makes losses or if the employee misses performance targets, UBS said. The maluses could wipe out all previously agreed share bonuses and two thirds of all cash bonuses under stringent new rules designed to align the interests of executives and traders with those of shareholders."
This concept is aslo called a "clawback", and embedding it in compensation packages so that a person has a downside component is a great idea. Looks like something we'll end up discussing in class.

HT: Proxylan…

200,000 Hits, Baby

Sometime Tuesday night, Financial Rounds had it's 200,000th visitor. I'm amazed that this many people have so little to occupy themselves.

Just kidding - I appreciate all the traffic, and I'm humbled by people actually reading what I post up here. When I started this four years ago, I never thought I'd be seeing almost 10,000 hits a month (the average the last few years).

Beware The Bid-Ask Spread in ETFs

When the average Joe (or Jane) looks at transactions costs from trading, they typically focus on the commission charged by the broker. But in the case of some thinly-traded ETFs (exchange-traded funds), the bid-ask spread can add significantly to that cost. Here's a good piece on the topic from Morningstar:
No one has a very precise definition of liquidity, but it roughly boils down to how easy it is to buy or sell a particular security and how much agreement there is in the marketplace upon the security's fair value. The most liquid funds or stocks have miniscule bid-ask spreads, where the prices differ by only a penny. On the other side, a brand new ETF tracking a selection of more thinly traded mortgage-backed securities has a bid-ask spread near 0.80% as I write this. That means that buying and selling the fund at market prices, even without any commissions charges or price changes, would result in a 0.80% loss. Not exactly a terrifying loss, especially compared with wha…

The Financial Crisis Set to Song

A reader sent this in - The Financial Crisis Set To Song. Enjoy.

Econbrowser on Hedge Fund Risk

James Hamilton at Econbrowser gives a good example of "tail risk" from a Financial Analyst's Journal article by MIT's Andrew Lo:
1992-1999 was a good time to be in stocks-- a strategy of buying and holding the S&P 500 would have earned you a 16% annual return, with $100 million invested in 1992 growing to $367 million by 1999. As nice as this was, it pales in comparison to CDP's strategy, which would have turned $100 million into $2.7 billion, a 41% annual compounded return, with a positive return in every single year. Want to learn more? CDP stands for "Capital Decimation Partners", a hypothetical fund created by Professor Lo in order to illustrate the potential difficulty in evaluating a fund's risk if all you had to go on was a decade of stellar returns. The strategy whereby CDP would have amassed a hypothetical fortune was amazingly simple-- it simply sold put options on the S&P 500 stock index (SPX).Read the whole post here

And if you wa…

PETA, Sea Kittens, and Steak

Some of you might not have heard about PETA's latest half-baked attempt (pun intended) to dissuade people from eating fish. Their "logic":
People eat less of creatures that they think are cuteFish aren't cuteKittens are cuteSo, the solution? Just rename fish "sea kittens", and people will think they're cuter, and eat less fish. Riiiiiiight.

Luckily, someone had already registered the site Seakittens.com. When you go to the site, the PETA site www.peta.org/Sea_Kittens shows in the lower frame. What's in the upper frame? An ad for Omaha Steaks.

Making money off a far-left whacky group? Priceless.

If I ever have a PETA sticker on my car, it will be People for the Eating of Tasty Animals, and it will have the phrase "All God's Creatures Have Their Place - Right Next To the Mashed Potatos"

HT: Wall Street Journal's Best Of The Web