2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Marcus Opp, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Marcus Opp

Assistant Professor of Finance

U.C.-Berkeley, Haas School of Business

In a teaching statement found on his personal website, Professor Marcus Opp shares that he enjoys communicating the subject of finance and making students aware of pervasive misunderstandings of how financial markets are supposed to work. It is this authentic passion for finance that sets him apart as a standout professor. Students say his genuine love for finance enables him to transfer knowledge in an effortless way; whether through case studies, stories, or dry humor.

“Professor Opp helps students understand the intuition behind finance concepts and their applications, making the concepts – such as risks, leverage, and portfolio – concrete and memorable. From the details he teaches and answers he gives, I see that he genuinely wants every student to understand finance and can use finance in life.”

Opp has achieved outstanding teaching ratings from students during his time at Haas, boasting a median score of 6/7 for every course he’s taught since 2010.

On the research front, Opp studies dynamic contracting, financial intermediation, and international finance with his most recent work on financial intermediation serving to analyze the interplay between financial regulation and risk-taking incentives in the financial sector. His work is published in general interst journals like Econometrica and A-field journals such as the Journal of Economic Theory, the Journal of Financial Economics, and the Journal of International Economics. Last year he received an Emerald Citation Award for his work, “Rating agencies in the face of regulation.”

Age: 38

At current institution since: 2008

Education: PhD in Finance, University of Chicago 2008

List of courses you currently teach: Introduction to Finance (MBA), Corporate Finance Theory (PhD)

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am interested in the incentives of banks and other financial institutions to take on excessive risks and whether regulatory initiatives such as restrictions on banks’ “skin-in-the-game” or bans of “short-termist” compensation packages for bank CEOs are likely to prevent another financial crisis. My research shows how such seemingly innocuous and sensible regulations can backfire and, in fact, create more risks in the financial sector. While my previous work highlights the problems associated with regulators outsourcing part of its regulation to credit rating agencies, a follow-up paper of mine uncovers that a regulatory reform by U.S. insurance regulators aiming to address the use of “flawed ratings” has changed things for the worse: It has become easier rather than more difficult for U.S. insurance companies to purchase structured securities, i.e., the very “toxic” assets that caused the recent financial crisis. Our findings suggest that another negative shock to the US real estate market may severely affect the solvency of many U.S. insurers.

Professor you most admire: My advisor: Doug Diamond. He is not just exceptionally smart, but also a genuinely good and humble person. While he is the father of modern banking theory (and will presumably win the Nobel Prize for his contributions in that field), he was extremely supportive of me pursuing a broader research agenda.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…the exit interview after my investment banking internship ended with the verdict, “You are not prepared to suffer.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I would want to be the general manager of Bayern Munich, my favorite soccer team.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: NPV-positive

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: When a homeless person entered my MBA class at Berkeley, sat down in the back corner of the classroom, and started asking questions.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I won the John-Leusner Award for my dissertation at the University of Chicago, “an award not necessarily awarded annually, but only when a proposal is deemed sufficiently creative to merit the award.” Despite the incredibly high quality of graduates between 2006 and 2009 at Chicago, I was the only graduate in this four year period that won this award.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I can think and work on any problem I find interesting, regardless of field or methodology. I also enjoy teaching and the classroom experience. And the flexible schedule.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor?

  1. Conference calls at 4 a.m, with my co-authors in Europe
  2. When collaborators on joint projects don’t share my passion (at times obsession) for the project

What is your favorite business-themed movie and what is the biggest lesson that MBA students could gain from it? Wall Street (1987). Lesson: A neat, classic, slicked back hair style à la “Gordon Gekko” is essential for success in finance.

What is your favorite company and why? Porsche. It combines contemporary timeless design with German engineering.

Fun fact about yourself: I have the cutest teddy bear in the world (present from my mom).

Bucket list item #1: Visit the Great Wall of China.

Favorite book: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Favorite movie: The Usual Suspects

Favorite type of music: French Hip Hop, Depeche Mode, Deep house, Wu-tang Clan

Favorite television show: Mad Men

Favorite vacation spot: If you live in California, you don’t need to go on a vacation

What are your hobbies? Research (geeky, but true), tennis, cycling, dining, sudoku

Twitter handle: @realMarcusOpp

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…academics unburdened by administrative duties. It is not our core competency.”

Students say:

“Professor Opp taught me everything I know about finance today. He taught it in a manner which has allowed me to apply it to my work right away.He was able to relate both basic and complicated concepts to real life applications and taught it in a manner which made it easy to grasp. The entire learning experience was very pleasant and has served to drill down concepts which will stick with me for a long time. His teaching most surely has left a lasting positive impact on me.”

“Professor Opp is funny, takes students’ questions very seriously, and worked hard to ensure we were all learning the material. The net present value of Opp’s teaching style and intro to finance class is positive.”

“A great class and a fun learning experience. He not only masters all the concepts and formulas necessary for the class, but also brings the knowledge to us in an effortless way through numerous cases, stories, as well as dry humor.”

“Coming from an Engineering background, this was my very first exposure to concepts in Finance. I thought Professor Opp did an extremely good job in making concepts understandable to laymen like me.

“Through easy-to-understand examples and an interactive learning discipline, Professor Opp was able to articulate complex and sometime bland concepts in finance in way students can understand and apply to real-life cases. His teaching sets up a solid foundation for any MBA student seeking to a career in finance.”

“Professor Opp is an amazing teacher. He turns a topic that can be difficult to understand (Finance) into one that is digestible. I have taken a few Finance classes in the past, but his was by far the most enjoyable. His humorous tone and inclusion of numerous examples helped to make his class engaging, and make the topics he taught applicable to the real world. I really appreciated all of his hard work prepping for classes and ensuring his students understood the material.”


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