Olin School builds global leadership role, hosts Shanghai conference

The Olin School of Business has been building its participation in and knowledge of global business in the past year. That goal applies to the school’s curriculum as much as it does to the dissemination of the professors’ academic research.

Anjan Thakor, Ph.D., senior associate dean and the John E. Simon Professor of Finance, opened the door to facilitate this goal when he co-founded the Financial Intermediation Research Society (FIRS) three years ago.

“The goal of the group is to provide a way for those interested in financial intermediation and corporate finance to have access to each other’s work and to be able to communicate and coordinate further research more efficiently,” Thakor said. “FIRS is the first financial association to actively engage scholars from three continents — North America, Europe and Asia — in this exchange of ideas.”

The group’s aim is to bridge the gap in the flow of ideas across the different continents, he said.

“The best research is still being done in the United States, and scholars in European countries are also very productive, but there is a need to create greater communication of research across North America, Europe and Asia,” Thakor said.

“If you don’t proactively do anything, then the opportunity to build the necessary links will be very slow to develop.

“There is already active communication between North America and Europe, but we need to bring Asia more actively into the mix. We recognize the importance of encouraging research and fostering relationships with scholars in emerging markets.”

Thakor isn’t the only one who sees the value of FIRS’ efforts. The Olin School co-hosted a groundbreaking, transcontinental conference in Shanghai, China, June 1-3 for researchers in financial intermediation.

Thakor worked with Franklin Allen from the Wharton School of Business and Elena Carletti from Germany to set up the conference, which drew nearly 200 people from around the globe.

Thakor said this kind of midsize conference encourages collaboration, which is a boon to Westerners and Asians alike.

For example, U.S. and European academics might be able to learn about and access Asian data sources they were previously unfamiliar with.

He said that the Olin School’s involvement in the conference was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to other academic institutions that Olin and WUSTL are leaders in research and global outreach.

The school also invited many alumni from its Shanghai Executive M.B.A. program.

“It is important to signal to those alumni that their alma mater is on the cutting edge of thought leadership,” Thakor said.

He pointed out that his involvement in the FIRS Shanghai conference is in keeping with the business school’s increasing involvement in a variety of meetings organized by Olin School professors. This past academic year alone, the school hosted several conferences:

• The Center for Research in Economics and Strategy (CRES) had a conference on the foundations of business strategy.

• CRES and the finance department co-hosted a corporate mini-conference.

• The Boeing Center for Technology held a conference on information and manufacturing with a focus on supply-chain management.