Ask people on the street what mental image they associate with the words “stock exchange,” and you’ll likely hear about a large imposing building in the middle of New York or Chicago. Inside the building there is a huge space crowded with traders in multicolored jackets screaming and gesticulating to each other.
Until ten years ago, that would have been a pretty accurate description of a stock exchange. Today, however, almost all trading is done by algorithms firing digital commands traveling near the speed of light to rows upon rows of computer servers sitting in nondescript suburban warehouses.
The transition from human to electronic trading came with the promise of using faster and cheaper technology to drastically lower the costs of trading shares and to make it much easier to determine the most up-to-date prices for all market participants (commonly known as price discovery).
We’ve seen the downfall of many bricks and mortar stores over the last decade, including Borders, Circuit City, and most recently, RadioShack — to name just a few. As e-commerce continues to rise, it’s seemingly becoming more difficult for traditional stores to stay in business.
It’s true that online shopping has significantly grown over the last 10 years. Even in the last year, we’ve seen a noticeable uptick. According to the U.S. Census, total e-commerce sales for 2014 in the U.S. were estimated at $304.9 billion, which is a 15.4% increase from 2013. However, plenty of bricks and mortar stores are still healthy. Is it fair to blame e-commerce for every store closing and bankruptcy?
As a U.S. bankruptcy judge on Tuesday said he would approve a plan by the electronics retailer to sell 1,740 of its stores to the Standard General hedge fund and exit bankruptcy, it’s worth taking a closer look at why RadioShack failed. E-commerce wasn’t the only culprit. One big mistake involved poor strategic decisions over its financials. Feeling undervalued, the retailer bought back $400 million in stock in 2010 when its net profit was $206 million. It did something similar in 2011 when its net profit had declined to $72 million and it did another buy back for $113 million. In the end, it spent more than $500 million trying to push up the stock price.
Watch Andrew Lo, the economist, hedge fund manager, and finance professor at MIT Sloan, discuss his idea to bring Wall Street-style financial engineering to solving one of the most pressing medical problems of our time: curing cancer and rare diseases. Professor Lo’s proposal—the creation of a “megafund” that invests in early-stage biomedical research and drug development —holds promise for new treatments and medicine to fight cancer and other diseases. Robert Langer, the noted entrepreneur, scientist, and Institute Professor at MIT, also appears on the program to talk about bringing investors on board..
Andrew W. Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering.
MIT Sloan Visiting Associate Professor of Finance Lily Fang
From Wall Street Journal
Men and women have different experiences when it comes to Wall Street careers. And those differences fascinate Lily Fang.
Dr. Fang, an associate professor of finance on the Singapore campus of the business school Insead, has spent the past five years or so delving into how gender affects the career-development paths of stock-research analysts on Wall Street. What she and co-author Sterling Huang of Singapore Management University found was that the networking and personal connections that male analysts rely on so heavily to get ahead are much less useful for women in similar jobs.
Dr. Fang says the audience for this type of gender research has grown in recent years as it has become apparent that women—despite making great strides in many competitive industries—remain underrepresented in top echelons of the corporate world.
A native of Shanghai with a doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Dr. Fang is spending a year as a visiting associate professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Mass.
During the economic crisis, we saw an interesting pattern of activity among commercial banks. As prices of securities dramatically dropped, banks purchased the securities, looking to make profits when the prices later increased. This had an effect on lending, as banks used their capital to buy securities rather than make loans. This despite the banks taking billions at the time from the Federal Reserve in liquidity support.
Now, regulators around the world are debating whether banks should be allowed to trade in securities. In the U.S. we have the Volcker rule, which prevents banks from proprietary trading. In Europe, they have the Liikanen Report. But an important question in these discussions is what are the benefits and costs to not having banks trade securities?
Answering that question has been difficult due to a lack of comprehensive micro data at the security level on banks’ trading activities. However, in a recent study, my colleagues and I were given access to a unique, proprietary dataset from the Bundesbank (the German central bank) that provides information on security-level holdings for all banks in Germany at a quarterly frequency for the period between 2005 and 2012.
So we were able to analyze whether, during a financial crisis, banks with higher trading expertise increase their investments in securities, especially in securities that had a larger price drop, to profit from the trading opportunities. Further, we examined how this impacts lending.