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Laughing with a Nobel laureate in Financial Economics

21 August 2023
On 18 August, the auditorium of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam served as the stage for a special event: a comedy talk show about Finance. The audience learned about the research of several professors, including Finnish Nobel laureate Bengt Holmström, while also laughing a lot.

American comedians Dhaya Lakshminarayanan and Sammy Obeid interviewed the Finance professors about their research, with a touch of humour. This resulted in many captivating yet funny conversations.

Bengt Holmström (MIT), who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2016, shared his knowledge on smart contracts. Employers can make performance agreements with their employees. But not all tasks can be measured and contracted, so that employees might start to perform less on the tasks that are not in the contract. Therefore, expressing appreciation for things that are harder to measure is also very important, Holmström stressed. He also shed light on the 2008 financial crisis, also showing his Finnish sense of humour. "People point to different causes for the crisis. But the real problem might be that we don’t know anything," Holmström joked.

Following the interview with Holmström, the comedians talked with seven more Finance professors from around the world. Topics such as the importance of green investing for the environment, the price of data, the biases of investors in startups and shortcomings in investors' memories were discussed. Halfway through the show, there was a surprise when the saxophone player providing the interludes turned out to be a Finance professor as well.

The comedy talk show was part of the 50th annual conference of the European Finance Association (EFA). Scholars from all over the world gathered here to share their insights. To celebrate the anniversary, organiser Albert Menkveld of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam wanted a special closing session. "A comedy talk show at a scientific congress, that seemed refreshing! And everyone was welcome, so people from outside our bubble also got a chance to get acquainted with our research in a fun way" says the Finance professor. Extra special is that Ed.Movie shot a documentary during the congress and talk show, which will be screened in the near future.