2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Mike Simutin, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Mike Simutin

Assistant Professor of Finance

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Mike Simutin is a teacher’s teacher. For the past three years, he has been voted the the MBA Instructor of the Year by the graduating class. He has also earned an Excellence In Teaching Award for every year he has taught at Rotman. In fact, the lowest average score that he has received from one of his classes is a 6.8…on a 7.0 scale.

The secret behind his success in the classroom? As a whole, students find that he makes finance accessible to all. One MBA believes his gift stems from demanding as much from himself as his students. “He obviously puts considerable effort into preparing for each lecture. He is genuine, kind, calm, and patient. It is clear that he truly cares about his students, and he delivers a truly special learning experience for those lucky enough to land in his course.”

At some schools, faculty is divided by “researchers” and “teachers.” However, Simutin excels in both, with his recent research appearing in the Journal of Finance and Management Science. In 2016, he earned the Best Paper Award with the Review of Asset Pricing Studies and was a finalist for the AQR Insight Award.

Age: 33

At current institution since: 2010

Education: Ph.D. in finance from the University of British Columbia, 2010; B.A. in finance and accounting from the University of Washington, 2004

List of courses you currently teach: First-year MBA core finance course

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My research interests are very broad, but a key focus of my work is on institutional money management and determinants of asset returns.

Professor you most admire: There are so many whom I admire, but my utmost respect goes to my UBC advisors Adlai Fisher and Murray Carlson, who were invaluable in helping me grow as a finance researcher.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…Paul Malatesta, my undergraduate finance professor at UW, said during office hours, ‘Have you ever thought about doing a Ph.D.?’ and described what the job was about.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I’d be a medical doctor.”

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

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: As a teacher: Opening up teaching evaluations after my first semester of teaching the first-year finance core MBA class and seeing that every single student gave me a perfect 7 out of 7 rating. And later being voted professor of the year. Receiving this kind of recognition directly from students is the best teaching award I can think of. As a researcher: Getting the first paper accepted into a top-tier journal.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? My research papers, and recognition from the students for my teaching.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? The freedom to work on ideas I like, smart and friendly colleagues, and interactions with Rotman MBA students.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Writing tests and grading.

What is your favorite company and why? I don’t have a “favorite company.” Companies that treat their customers, employers, and other stakeholders well are a rare breed. Costco comes to mind as one that fits the bill.

Fun fact about yourself: I have a black sash in kung fu.

Favorite book: I like different books in different genres, but if I’d have to pick something, I’d say “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky, and poetry by Yesenin.

Favorite movie: No absolute favorites but the ones I’ve re-watched the most are “The Diamond Arm” and other Soviet-era comedies by Gaidai and “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”.

Favorite type of music: My tastes have evolved over time, and now I appreciate good music irrespective of the type.

Favorite television show: Breaking Bad

Favorite vacation spot: I don’t think I’ve been to the same vacation spot twice. Too many places to go, too little time to vacation. But after a trip to Maui this January, I’ll be going back there for sure.

What are your hobbies? My main hobby is to help my four-year-old daughter develop her hobbies. Other than that, hiking and occasional exercise.

Twitter handle: I don’t have one

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…a robust interdisciplinary focus, smaller classes, advanced technologies to facilitate learning, and strong connections with employers to make sure we are preparing the students the best way possible for their future careers.”

Students say:

“I’m a marketing professional, and I feel no one else in the world could have taught me Finance.”

“Overall, I am short of words to praise him. He definitely makes students develop a genuine interest in finance.”

The three characteristics that make Mike Simutin stand out from all of the professors I have had during my MBA are his approachability, relatability and great sense of humor. I have often run into Mike at the coffee shop or outside the school as we get our bikes to commute home. He is always curious as to how the MBA experience has been going and how he can help with any networking or job search. Mike is able to keep a fun and light tone in class while simultaneously breaking down complex concepts into manageable pieces.”

“As an MBA student without a finance background, I was nervous. I knew that learning financial terminology and concepts would be challenging. It soon became apparent that Mike would help me every step of the way: my confidence skyrocketed. He was creative in devising ways to explain a concept using different analogies time and again. Mike so palpably cares for his students’ success. He is one of the best professors I have had in my university career and he is a tremendous asset to the Rotman School and wider U of T community.”

“Professor Simutin is a talented teacher. He could simultaneously engage those with no finance background (like me) and those with significant experience. He made finance accessible and inspired everyone to get excited about it. I consider it a privilege having had him as one of my professors.”