2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Alex Edmans, London Business School

Alex Edmans

Professor of Finance

London Business School

Edmans may be the most popular professor at the London Business School. Last year, he won the ‘Best Teacher’ awards from both the first-year and second-year MBA students. Alas, teaching awards are nothing new to Edmans, who collected 14 of them during his previous six years at the Wharton School. That doesn’t even count the three others he earned as a teaching assistant at MIT while he earned his Ph.D.

The story hardly ends there. He has spoken in front of the British Parliament and the World Economic Forum in Davos. He has been interviewed by all of the major business media outlets: Wall Street Journal, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg…and even ESPN. He launched his own blog, Access to Finance, to make finance concepts more accessible. Outside of London Business School, he is also the Managing Editor of the Review of Finance.

At current institution since: 2013

Education: PhD Financial Economics, MIT Sloan, 2007

List of courses you currently teach: Corporate Finance, Incentives in Organisations, Corporate Social Responsibility

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am studying how to encourage firms to invest for the long-term rather than pursuing short-term profit. My latest publication shows that the horizon of the CEO’s incentives matters. When the lock-up on a CEO’s shares vests, they significantly cut investment and are more likely to hit short-term earnings targets.

Professor you most admire: Raghu Rajan of Chicago. He applies rigorous research to major questions of real-world importance

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…I realized the freedom I had to study whatever I wanted. My MIT PhD thesis, and first publication, showed that a country’s stock market falls significantly when its national team is knocked out of the World Cup, due to its negative effect on investor mood. Sports are one of my main passion (as is social responsibility), and I am able to write papers that I’m passionate about, no matter how wacky they sound.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I’d be a trial attorney. I like debating different viewpoints. If ability were no object, I’d be the manager of a Premier League soccer club. I’d love both the excitement and stress. And I’d get to shout a lot.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Energising

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: At my last school, I organized a team of students to run the Philadelphia Marathon and Half-Marathon to raise money for the American Cancer Society (which I served as a running coach in my spare time). An MBA involves incredible demands. It was incredibly gratifying seeing them devote time they barely had to train to raise money to help others, and their guts and commitment during the race itself.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I am proud of my TEDx talk, “The Social Responsibility of Business”, which (based on my research) argues that there is no trade-off between purpose and profit. It has had some impact in encouraging companies and investors to think about long-run purpose rather than short-term profit.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I get to meet hundreds of smart young people every year (my students).

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? I lose touch with many of these people and do not get to see all the amazing things they do with their lives.

Fun fact about yourself: I used to play in covers bands in London and Philadelphia. At my last school, I captained an MBA ice hockey team for 3 years and fought a boxing match in the ring where Rocky V was filmed.

Bucket list item #1: I sincerely don’t have any such items. Life is a journey, not a destination.

Favorite book: Business: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Non-business: The Alchemist

Favorite movie: Twelve Angry Men

Favorite type of music: Classic Rock

Favorite television show: I don’t watch TV. The job of a professor is already sedentary, so in my spare time I like to hit or kick things.

Favorite vacation spot: Thailand

What are your hobbies? Sports and music

Twitter handle: aedmans

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…a greater focus on rigorous, large scale research rather than hand-picked case studies.”

Students say:

“Alex’s class should be the gold standard for all other courses. His ability to take complex theories and dilute them into easily digestible learnings was remarkable. Additionally, he went the extra mile to engage all students and create a fun and dynamic learning experience. A+.”

“Alex puts a lot of energy, effort, and attention to detail into his class. He genuinely cares that everyone understands the content and wants to contribute to a sense of community among the class.”

“Alex classes blend quantitative rigour, common sense intuition, real-world experience, cutting-edge academic research, and leadership/career insights.”


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