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2021 Best 40-Under 40-Professors: Jonathan Brogaard, University of Utah (Eccles)

Jonathan Brogaard of the University of Utah Eccles School of Business is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Business School Professor. Courtesy photo

Jonathan Brogaard

Professor

University of Utah, David Eccles School of Business

Jonathan Brogaard is a research workhorse. At just 37 years old, Brogaard has nearly 5,000 Google Scholar citations. But what puts the finance professor from the University of Utah Eccles School of Business on this year’s list of the world’s 40 best business school professors under 40 is that prolific body of research combined with the dozens of nominations we received focusing on his teaching in the classroom and mentoring outside of the classroom.

“I normally have multiple research projects going on at any given moment,” Brogaard says. “On one level, this is the nature of our enterprise. At another, it is a function of the fact that today’s markets feel like they are endlessly generating questions and controversies. My work has focused on the qualitative effects of the shift towards high-speed algorithmic processing of information in trading, and as much as my coauthors and I have found real gains arising out of this technology, we are also encountering its limits.”

Last spring, Brogaard won the David Eccles School of Business Faculty Research Excellence Award. In 2019, he received the David Eccles School of Business Doctoral Faculty Teaching Excellence Award. And in Fall 2020, he was elected as a University Senator and appointed to be the Director of the Finance Ph.D. Program. It’s that type of balance of research, teaching, and leadership strengths that make him the epitome of what we seek out to recognize with this list.

Current age (and birthdate): 37

At current institution since what year? 2018

Education: Undergraduate: Occidental College; Ph.D. in Finance: Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management; Juris Doctor (JD): Northwestern School of Law

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Advanced Finance, Executive MBAs

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when I realized that I would have the freedom to research any issues and questions that interested me. It also came from a place of wanting to understand the systems that drove the inner workings of capital movements within the market and society. When we look at a securities exchange or a bank, most of us tend to assume that the value moves from one destination to the next without frictions. But these are human-built processes with a long history of evolution, updating and redesign. They are not automatically perfect. I wanted to understand how the operational, nuts-and-bolts shifts in market mechanics affect economic value transfer and what kinds of welfare gains we can achieve by making discrete changes to these really fundamental but often forgotten processes.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I normally have multiple research projects going on at any given moment. On one level, this is the nature of our enterprise. At another, it is a function of the fact that today’s markets feel like they are endlessly generating questions and controversies. My work has focused on the qualitative effects of the shift towards high-speed algorithmic processing of information in trading, and as much as my coauthors and I have found real gains arising out of this technology, we are also encountering its limits. In one recent paper, my coauthors and I found that markets suffered when COVID-19 caused the New York Stock Exchange to suspend floor trading. We show that human traders bring unique complements to automated markets by being better equipped to handle complexity, crisis and uncertainty. In another paper, my coauthors and I demonstrate that today’s equity prices are composed much less of “noise” than they were in the 1990s. In other words, markets are becoming more deeply informative. These differing strands of research show the complex dynamic underlying our hyper-fast, high-tech markets. Digitization and automation have given us real progress, but humans still remain a fundamental part of what makes our trading processes successful and resilient.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I’d definitely be a ski bum!

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I get pretty excited about teaching. It is a lot of fun and I hope that comes across to the students. It is probably corny to say, but the process is as much learning for me as the professor as it is conveying new information and ideas to students. One of the most motivating aspects of this job is the fact that what I teach connects in evolving ways to industry. Even in the short time I have been a professor, Silicon Valley has become a major destination for students in addition to Wall Street. MBAs are increasingly emphasizing social responsibility and a values-driven approach to their professional ambitions. I like to always link theory to practice. As a result, I get to learn a lot about the changing market in trying to make the classroom experience substantive, fun and responsive.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Dehydrating.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Even though my professors and teachers completely changed my life, I did not fully take account of the ways in which my being a professor would affect the lives of the students I teach. It is a lot of responsibility and an enormous privilege. Particularly pre-tenure, there is a temptation to focus on research at all costs. But I realized very early that this was not an option if I wanted to be someone that made a positive and lasting difference in the lives and experiences of students. Teaching takes a lot of time to get right. It is a craft and – as Zoom and COVID-19 have made very clear – one that we have to continually work at given the stakes involved.

Professor I most admire and why: I need to mention two as I cannot choose between them! Joseph Engelberg – he has mentored me throughout my career so far and he can explain anything to anyone in a way that is accessible and memorable. My PhD adviser, Annette Vissing-Jørgensen. She’s a brilliant mind, a truly dedicated and kind mentor, and someone that has taught me the importance of trying to formulate essential questions in ways that emphasize originality and creativity.

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Business students tend to have an interesting mix of experience, expertise and focus while also being open to making changes in their lives and professional goals. That makes for a dynamic classroom and one where no two years are the same. Each group of students consumes material in a different way given their mix of experience and attitudes to the future. Surprising ideas and new formulations of traditional concepts emerge from each class, as students interact with the material based on their unique histories and expertise. I get to learn a lot from the students in this way. Classes can be pretty unpredictable. I have to be fast on my feet a lot of the time!

What is most challenging? The most challenging and satisfying aspect of this job is being able to make finance really accessible, relevant and also inspiring intellectually. As a profession, I feel that we have a reputation generally for being too esoteric, hiding-the-ball and making otherwise intuitive concepts overly difficult to grasp. It is incredibly difficult to break down complex subjects in ways that really connect to even the most reluctant or intimidated student. But equally, it is incredibly satisfying when that student sends a note at the end of the semester saying how much they appreciated the effort and took away from the course.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Arrogant.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as: Fair, but tough. Students have to earn their grade.

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? Pretty much anything that involves being outdoors. I love skiing, biking, running, climbing, kiteboarding, and traveling. Weirdly for a finance empiricist maybe, I am a big fan of opera, theatre, and musical theatre. Hamilton basically rewired my brain!  

How will you spend your summer? Wearing a lot of sunscreen.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: I get to live in Park City, Utah which means that home doubles as a holiday home. Otherwise, I could go to Yellowstone National Park and the Oregon Coast every year. For the challenge, my favorite experiences usually involve standing at the base of a big mountain looking up.

Favorite book(s): I read a lot of non-fiction, so this list keeps changing. But over the years, two books that stay with me are Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and the Bhagavad Gita. They have provided me with ways of thinking through life’s opportunities and challenges and offer something new up at every reading. More recently, I was fascinated by Andrew Lo’s book, Adaptive Markets and Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Over the pandemic, I got into ESPN’s The Last Dance about Michael Jordan and the golden age of the Chicago Bulls – as well as Ted Lasso. Maybe it had something to do with missing being with people and teams, but both were inspiring, human, nostalgic and said something about the hard work it takes to make good leadership look effortless.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I am an old-school hip-hop fan. My all-time favorite artists are 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Biggie, Warren G, Eminem, and DMX. My current favorite artist is Stormzy. His range is phenomenal, and he blends big beats with social impact. I also play Christmas music all year around.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more emphasis on welcoming diverse classes of students as well as faculty. As a profession, we need to do a much better job at encouraging underrepresented students to enter business schools, creating more systematic pathways into industry, MBA and Ph.D. programs as well as into faculties. Ultimately, we all know the value of diversity in encouraging creative thinking, enriching perspectives on existing questions, and making the academic work of business schools connected to a broader range of real-world ideas and interests. In addition, from the standpoint of teaching, this last year has made clear that business professionals are in constant need of adapting and learning new skills and strategies. Business schools are well placed to address this need for adaptation, for example, by providing “micro-certifications” for continuing education in specialized fields. The world is moving quickly, and professionals can really gain from short-bursts of new knowledge if they do not have time to complete a full-MBA program, or even alongside it.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at anticipating and preparing for long-horizon trends. Obviously, events like the pandemic are rare and many companies have done a remarkable job in moving workplaces to the cloud and enabling remote work. On Wall Street, for example, the marketplace transitioned to remote without disruptions on everyday functions. But long-horizon challenges, like those created by climate change, aging populations and fragile supply chains are more unpredictable, nebulous and difficult to price. They can also feel less urgent. At the same time, working to research them now can be helpful in conceptualizing the smaller questions that might provide insight into and help prepare for the much larger (and daunting) changes coming.

I’m grateful for: my family that always supports me; the many teachers and mentors over the years who were infinitely patient with me.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say: 

“Jonathan Brogaard became an Assistant Professor of Finance in 2012 after completing his PhD at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University after a JD and a BA in Economics. He is now Full Professor. In the short span of just over eight years, he has become an international super-star. I cannot think of anyone of comparable vintage in finance academia who has been as successful as Jonathan has been; and his excellence has encompassed both research and teaching. In research, in just these 8 years, Jonathan has 15 “A” journal papers (plus R&Rs) and 3 “A-” journal papers with multiple best paper awards at top journals. He also has several practitioner outreach publications; 4,800 Google cites; multiple cases as expert witness in legal cases; various unpaid assignments with U.S. and international Governmental regulatory agencies; multiple consulting assignments with leading asset management firms; and extensive media coverage. The Journal of Financial Economics Editor recently indicated that Jonathan Brogaard had reviewed 25 papers for them, and I know he has reviewed multiple papers for Review of Financial Studies as well – indicating the high respect with which he is viewed in the profession. I doubt if there is a reasonably researching finance academic who has not heard of Jonathan Brogaard. Importantly, in the area of teaching, Jonathan Brogaard has also won Awards for mentoring doctoral students. I have not personally seen him teach, but given the fact that he also runs a hedge fund in his spare time, his teaching has to richly incorporate both the academic rigor of his exceptional research achievements, and the practical realism of his trading experience, his consulting, his expert witness work, and his regulatory reports. Jonathan Brogaard is the perfect candidate for 40 MBA Professors under 40.”

“Jonathan is a fantastic teacher and mentor. His passion for markets shines through in everything he does, whether it’s working with individual students to master basic concepts, developing innovative courses on alternative investment strategies, or introducing cutting edge research in the classroom. Taking his classes and working for him on research projects were highlights of my academic experience — he always found a way to make complex financial topics accessible and engaging. On a human level, he’s also an all-around great person that invests in the people around him and university community.”

“Dr. Brogaard has an excellent research record with 8 papers being published in a 21 month period. Professor Brogaard’s research record reflects both quantity and quality, and is simply exceptional. It is not surprising that he has a national and international reputation in his field. He is also an excellent teacher. He aims to both challenge and empower students. His success in these goals are reflected in numerous comments from his undergraduate and graduate students. He is active working with and helping students at all levels-undergraduate, masters and doctoral. He is also extremely active in service to the profession; for example, he reviews extensively for journals in the field and has served on 50+ conference program committees.”

“An outstanding teacher with a strong academic and research background who is a stellar faculty member. He is always happy to jump in and help his students anytime they are struggling, especially with a challenging Advanced Finance course at the end of the Executive MBA program”

“Dr. Brogaard is amazing. At the executive MBA level, it is hard to teach a group that already thinks they know everything. Dr. Brogaard knows how to keep the class entertained, challenge thinking, and teach valuable concepts. My time with Dr. Brogaard seemed short because of his energy and he influenced me to love and continue to learn about finance long after I finished the MBA program.”

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