Introduction to Financial Markets by Yale University #1

Introduction to Financial Markets by Yale University #1

August 23, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


So, how shall I begin? This is the blurb for the course, the blurb that’s been in the Yale catalog for a long time. This is a course on finance. It has the word, “markets,” in the name, which suggest that it’s about trading, but I think it’s a broad course in finance. So the blurb says, “Financial institutions are a pillar of civilized society, directing resources across space and time to their best uses.” So this sounds broader. I guess the course is broader. I wrote the title of the course many years ago when I created this course, and it’s been a title for about… To me, this course is about is how we get things done in our society. That’s how we incentivize people to do things. Now, most of us are in our lives, thinking about ourselves – that’s human nature – and about our particular place in the life cycle. So, you may be a young person who’s thinking about getting started in life. But when you join a enterprise or an organization, you have to do things for the organization and you have to take a different perspective. You have to help manage a productive venture that involves many people. So there aren’t that many things that you can do as an individual that are useful, you have to join an organization. This is a fundamental principle of human life. So this is a course about understanding how the institutions work and how we can predict what will happen. And things are rapidly changing in the Information Age that we live in now, so that’s what this course is about. I don’t consider this a vocational course because I think it should be of interest to anybody who is interested in how things work. On the other hand, this course comes across as more vocational than most Yale courses. And in some sense, I pride myself on that, although I consider myself an intellectual. But, this is a relevant course, all right? It’s not about how to make money. You might say it is, I suppose. But, it’s about making things work. These are the topics in this course. So, risk Insurance, diversification, history of finance, innovation, efficient markets, behavioral finance. Actually, behavioral finance is a little bit more prominent than you might think from its appearance as number seven on this list. Behavioral finance is the application of psychology, sociology, other social sciences to understanding financial events. It’s a revolution in finance that I have watched over the whole course of it because I have organized conferences on behavioral finance starting in 1991, working with Richard Thaler at University of Chicago. We’ve been doing that for 25 years, but we just bequeathed that there are regular seminars of professors too, Nick Barberis here at the Yale School of Management. But we’ll talk about it because I kind of believe in a unity of knowledge. So this course will differ from many other finance courses in that I want to talk about real people and how things really work. Then we’ll talk about debt, the stock market, the real estate market, regulation. Oh by the way, regulation is an interest of mine too, more so than most people who teach finance because I think that the markets need to be regulated. Human beings have a tendency to be manipulative and tricky, and finance is used to trick people. That’s why we need regulators. So you shouldn’t assume that I want to send you off to Wall Street. I think that you might go to be a member of the right like the Securities and Exchange Commission or something else as a job and be proud of it. OK? It’s important. And then banking, futures – futures market has a special meaning in finance, monetary policy, endowment management, investment banking, option, money managers, exchanges, public finance, nonprofits, and finally, that last lecture will be on the purpose of all this. So that’s this course. So, I wanted also to just reflect on the relative. I said this course looks more vocational in a way, but I don’t consider this vocational school. This is, I like to say, useful. One thought, perspective I wanted to give you was how important is finance anyway. Unless you go into academia, you will get a job somewhere in the real world. So where are the jobs? Well, I looked up on the Bureau of Labor Statistics – it was a publication of the U.S. government. On their website, they have data on just how many people are in different professions in the United States; and they also have a forecast. So what I’m showing – the latest data is for the year 2014, and it has the number of people in thousands. And then also on there we have the projection for 2024. So, you note that at the top I’ve got finance – these are specific finance profession, not all finance professions. Financial analysts, financial managers, personal financial advisors, they all have hundreds of thousands of people. But I wanted you to note, what about the other majors that you have here? I’m not diminishing them. But economics, economists, not so many. But you might also be interested in astronomy – I actually love astronomy. When I was a kid, I thought I’d be an astronomer. But I had to reach reality – there’s lots of exciting fields where there are almost no jobs. How many astronomers are there, sociologists, political scientist, or mathematicians? This is not to diminish your majoring in this field, but you just don’t expect to get a job in those fields. I also put down at the bottom massage therapist, OK? I didn’t know that was a profession, but there is projected to be about 200,000 massage therapists in the United States in 2024. So we don’t have a massage therapy major here, but that’s a sign of how the market makes things important. Now run up, Farahar might be right about this. There’s something wrong with having so many finance people – maybe we need more massage therapists than finance people. But there’s a sense of reality that I think that part of the reason that there’s so many of them is that they deal with important issues that can’t be quickly, they can’t be more easily solved; we need all these people. That’s why I take some pride in this course in being connected to the real world. There are real job opportunities in finance. And there also I think in the new Industrial Revolution period, they will still be. I think this is one of the fields that is not going to be totally replaced by a computer. The problem with finance is a high inequality in this field. Some people make a lot of money, but on the other hand, you have to give it away. This is another thing about this course. If you make a lot of money in finance, it’s a game, you enjoyed it, now give most of it away – that’s going to be a theme.