What did you study at Yale, and what is your current profession/job?
I am Chief Risk Officer at the Inter-American Development Bank, a role that offers an interesting balance between my academic interests as a Ph.D. in Economics (1998) and my professional experience in international banking and capital markets.
What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/ or rewarding?
Risk management operates as a “second line of defense” for the credit, market, socio-environmental and operational risks that are inherent to development banking. It supports directly the Inter-American Development Bank Vision 2025 for lending to a region that is more integrated, technological, equal in small business and social opportunities and increasingly active in climate risk management.
How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?
As an undergraduate in Italy, I had become very interested in the work of Hyman Minsky, and this was before he become a household name during the Global Financial Crisis. I had come to Yale to study financial instability and the credit cycle and was lucky to be exposed to faculty and fellow graduate students who thought hard about how the real economy and financial markets interact. A paradox was that I graduated right before the Asian Crisis and went on the academic job market at a time in which demand for my area of research was at an historic low. The upshot was I pivoted towards banking, which in turn provided plenty of opportunities over the past quarter century to tackle the challenges I had studied back in the nineties.
What are the main skills that you acquired as a PhD student which help make you successful in your current career?
The main differentiator of doctoral studies is that we are trained to find the cracks in widely accepted paradigms and incentivized to propose new avenues to solve hard problems. In their role as a “second line of defense” risk managers are constantly called to challenge conventional wisdom and question deep rooted assumptions, while providing alternative solutions.
Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school?
This was probably the one mistake I made, not to fully take advantage of the opportunities to teach and work as a research assistant, which were available at the time. There is no better way to learn a subject than teaching it, as it turns you in an active learner. I believe opportunities are more plentiful today for students, particularly as remote assignments become widely available.
What advice would you offer PhDs who are interested in your line of work?
Spend as much time learning history as you do in studying math. Most economic and financial issues are recurrent through history, though they may at first sight appear unique. As a graduate student, I was told of James Tobin often complaining that the economists’ memory is too short. Reading history can help addressing Tobin’s warning for our profession.