Every month, School of Management professors leave the classroom and hit the broadcast booth to spread the gospel of responsible finance to the masses.
Last Thursday, School of Management professors Harry Mamaysky and Roger Ibbotson joined International Finance Center director William Goetzmann to dispense investment advice to a broad New England audience on National Public Radio’s “The Smart Investor” program. While offering average Americans a few investment tips, the monthly program provides one of the few forums where professors can share their knowledge and research with a wide public audience rather than a small academic elite.
“As a research professor, it’s important to translate what we do into practical terms — not just create new knowledge and new ideas but explore the cultural value of those ideas,” said Goetzmann, who is a regular guest on the program. “I like the challenge [of] hearing the problems that people have and seeing how what I’ve seen and what I’ve learned might be a guide to solving those problems.”
“The Smart Investor,” the brainchild of NPR host Faith Middleton and SOM media relations director Karin Nobile, has showcased 14 different professors since it first went on air in fall 1999. Since then, it has looked to differentiate itself from the myriad of other finance-related radio programs by focusing on long-term investment options rather than dispensing advice on which stock will next crash or boom.
“We give advice [to listeners] on how to diversify portfolios and how to reduce their taxes. We give them really what is sensible advice — the big picture, I guess,” said Ibbotson, an SOM professor who specializes in the practice of finance.
Other more narrowly scoped investment programs which focus on day-trading advice can have the side effects of making investors more hyper and gossip-oriented, Ibbotson said. On Thursday’s show, entitled “Who Makes Money in the Stock Market,” the professors discussed economic principles of competitive advantage and imperfect information in relation to which types of stocks are likely to be most profitable on the stock market.
A third of the show is devoted to general issues, a third to answering listener questions, and a third to fresh investment research, Goetzmann said.
Programs like “The Smart Investor” are helpful for business school faculty because they offer professors exposure to the views of the average American, SOM Deputy Dean Stan Garstka said.
“People oftentimes ask really good questions, whether they know something formally about the subject matter or not,” Garstka said. “They sometimes think in non-standard ways, while academics all think alike.”
But Goetzmann said that SOM professors have considerable opportunity to step away from academia and expose themselves to the practical, everyman side of finance, and that the radio program is not extraordinary in that respect.
“Most academics in finance interact with the world of business at a pretty high level,” he said. “It’s an unusual profession because it’s got all the intellectual excitement of any social science, but the questions that we’re dealing with, a lot of people have an interest in knowing the answer.”