Where to From Here?
The New International Financial System Analyzing the Cumulative Impact of Regulatory Reform. D. Evanoff, A. Haldane, and G. Kaufman, eds. (2015) 569-577
Ever since the Great Recession, the global financial regulatory system has undergone significant changes. But have these changes been sufficient? Have they created a new problem of over-regulation? Is the system currently in a better position than in the pre-Recession years, or have we not adequately addressed the basic causes of the financial crisis and resulting Great Recession These were the questions and issues addressed in the seventeenth annual international banking conference held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in November 2014. In collaboration with the Bank of England, the theme of the conference was to examine the state of the new global financial system as it has evolved in response to significant market changes and regulatory reforms triggered by the global financial crisis. The papers from that conference are collected in this volume, with contributions from an international array of government officials, regulators, industry practitioners and academics.
The Wisdom of Crowds vs. the Madness of Mobs
Handbook of Collective Intelligence. Thomas Malone and Michael Bernstein eds. (2015) 21-37
Intelligence does not arise only in individual brains; it also arises in groups of individuals. This is collective intelligence: groups of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent. In recent years, a new kind of collective intelligence has emerged: interconnected groups of people and computers, collectively doing intelligent things. Today these groups are engaged in tasks that range from writing software to predicting the results of presidential elections. This volume reports on the latest research in the study of collective intelligence, laying out a shared set of research challenges from a variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. Taken together, these essays—by leading researchers from such fields as computer science, biology, economics, and psychology—lay the foundation for a new multidisciplinary field.
with Thomas J Brennan and Tri-Dung Nguyen, The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics (2015) 648-658
Pioneered by the Nobel Prize–winning economist Harry Markowitz over half a century ago, portfolio theory is one of the oldest branches of modern financial economics. It addresses the fundamental question faced by an investor: how should money best be allocated across a number of possible investment choices? That is, what collection or portfolio of financial assets should be chosen? In this article, we describe the fundamentals of portfolio theory and methods for its practical implementation. We focus on a fixed time horizon for investment, which we generally take to be a year, but the period may be as short as days or as long as several years. We summarize many important innovations over the past several decades, including techniques for better understanding how financial prices behave, robust methods for estimating input parameters, Bayesian methods, and resampling techniques.
Attack of the Clones
with Jasmina Hasanhodzic, Alpha Magazine
Hedge funds are considered by many investors to be an attractive investment, thanks in large part to their diversification benefits and distinctive risk profiles. The major drawbacks are their high fees and lack of transparency. Research by Jasmina Hasanhodzic and Andrew W. Lo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology raises the possibility of creating passive portfolios that provide similar risk exposures to those of hedge funds at lower costs and with greater transparency. Hasanhodzic and Lo find that for certain hedge fund strategies, these hedge fund “clones” perform well enough to warrant serious consideration.
Survival of the Richest
Harvard Business Review
In financial markets, as in many human endeavors, there’s a battle between reason and madness. On one side are the disciples of the efficient-markets hypothesis: the notion that markets fully, accurately, and instantaneously incorporate all relevant information into prices. These adherents assume that market participants are rational, always acting in their own interest and making mathematically optimal decisions. On the other side are the champions of behavioral economics: a younger discipline that points to bubbles, crashes, panics, manias, and other distinctly unreasonable phenomena as evidence of irrationality.
It’s hard to deny that investors act irrationally from time to time, yet behavioralists have so far failed to offer an alternative to supplant the efficient-markets hypothesis, which does brilliantly explain many economic occurrences and has had an enormous impact on modern financial theory and practice. Both approaches seem to have compelling explanatory power in their own right, yet they have opposing premises: rationality versus human psychology. How can the efficient-markets hypothesis and behavioral economics ever be reconciled? Perhaps by looking to Charles Darwin instead of Adam Smith.
Fear, Greed, and Financial Crises: A Cognitive Neurosciences Perspective
Handbook of Systemic Risk, edited by J.P. Fouque and J. Langsam
Abstract Historical accounts of financial crises suggest that fear and greed are the common denominators of these disruptive events: periods of unchecked greed eventually lead to excessive leverage and unsustainable asset-price levels, and the inevitable collapse results in unbridled fear, which must subside before any recovery is possible. The cognitive neurosciences may provide some new insights into this boom/bust pattern through a deeper understanding of the dynamics of emotion and human behavior. In this chapter, I describe some recent research from the neurosciences literature on fear and reward learning, mirror neurons, theory of mind, and the link between emotion and rational behavior. By exploring the neuroscientific basis of cognition and behavior, we may be able to identify more fundamental drivers of financial crises, and improve our models and methods for dealing with them.
Journal of Indexes Q3 (2001), 26–35.
Artificial intelligence has transformed financial technology in many ways and in this review article, three of the most promising applications are discussed: neural networks, data mining, and pattern recognition. Just as indexes are meant to facilitate the summary and extraction of information in an efficient manner, sophisticated automated algorithms can now perform similar functions but at higher and more powerful levels. In some cases, artificial intelligence can save us from natural stupidity.
Fat Tails, Long Memory, and the Stock Market Since the 1960’s
Economic Notes 26 (1997), 219–252.
The practice of risk management starts with an understanding of the statistical behavior of financial asset prices over time. Models such as the random walk hypothesis, the martingale model, and geometric Brownian motion are fundamental to any analysis of financial risks and rewards, particularly for longer investment horizons. Recent empirical evidence has cast doubt on some of these models, and this article provides an overview of such evidence. I begin with a review of the random walk hypothesis and related models, including a discussion of why such models perform so poorly, and then turn to some current research on alternative models such as long-term memory models and stable distributions.
A Non-Random Walk Down Wall Street
The Proceedings of the 1994 Wiener Centennial Symposium, edited by D. Jerison, I. Singer, and D. Stroock. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.
While financial economics is still in its infancy when compared to the mathematical and natural sciences, it has enjoyed a spectacular period of growth over the past three decades, thanks in part to the mathematical machinery that Wiener, Ito, and others pioneered. In this review article, I shall present a survey of some recent research in this exciting area—more specifically, in empirical finance and financial econometrics—including a discussion of the random walk hypothesis, long-term memory in stock market prices, performance evaluation, and the statistical estimation of diffusion processes. It is my hope that such a survey will serve both as a tribute to the amazing reach of Nobert Wiener's research, and as an enticement to those in the "hard" sciences to take on some of the challenges of modern finance.
Securities Transaction Taxes: What Would Be Their Effects on Financial Markets and Institutions?
with John Heaton, False Hopes and Unintended Consequences, edited by Suzanne Hammond, 1995. Chicago, IL: Catalyst Institute
A securities transactions tax is likely to have far-reaching and profound implications for the financial systems and institutions. We evaluate the effect that a transactions tax will have on the financial system's role in transferring resources over time and in allocating risk efficiently across individuals and sectors. In particular, we examine the impact of a transactions tax on individual investors due to the reduction in the rate of return on savings, the reduction in trading, and the likely reduction in the value of stocks. We also consider the possible effects of a transactions tax on market liquidity. By reducing the informational role of prices and reducing market liquidity, a transactions tax may result in higher market volatility. We provide a simple numerical example that illustrates the enormous impact such a tax will have on the derivatives markets, where participants rely heavily on dramatic trading strategies to control risk. This sector is the financial system, along with its jobs, revenues, and risk-management capabilities are likely to move offshore in response to the tax.