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The Finance PhD pathway

The Finance Group at Cambridge Judge Business School covers a broad spectrum of issues in finance. We define finance as more than a set of financial transactions - it is the glue that holds together corporations, capital markets and the real economy. 

We pursue research on empirical and theoretical corporate finance, asset pricing, and financial accounting as well as the intersections of finance and economics. In doing so, we treat finance as both an art and a science. On the one hand, we aim for methodological rigour through applying econometric methods and theoretical tools from contract theory and financial economics that enable us to infer causal statements about the way the world works. On the other hand, all our efforts are directed at shedding light on questions that we, and businesses in the real world, deem to be interesting and important at this time.

These questions can move above and beyond our everyday understanding of finance. For instance, economists have acknowledged the important role of financial intermediation for growth and welfare. One important component of this research agenda is analysing the 'black box' that is financial institutions. Several faculty members at the School work on topics and publish papers related to the study of commercial banks, investment banks, universal banks, mutual funds, hedge funds and other providers of financial services. 

However, our research is not confined to this area. Market failures and inefficiencies don't just occur between financial institutions and those seeking their services (most notably corporations) - they can also be the result of what is happening inside firms. Another set of research topics analyses how firms actually work - how are compensation contracts written, and why do companies pay bribes to politicians? A third set of research questions analyses investors that invest in firms through a set of financial intermediaries. How do these investors understand risk? Can managers and intermediaries consistently fool them into paying too much for securities or assets? We pay close attention to human decision-making and behavioural anomalies, both of which also apply to the broader context of capital markets and financial accounting.

Our faculty and PhD students attempt to contribute to this exciting debate by conducting cutting-edge research on the multi-faceted linkages between investors, intermediaries and corporations. While our questions are academic in nature, we strive for solutions that can inform the practice of finance, and we incorporate this spirit into our teaching and other classroom interactions.

What you can expect from the PhD pathway in Finance

When you join the programme, you will be treated as a junior colleague rather than a student. The Finance Group will work with you and train you to become an independent researcher with a research programme and portfolio of academic papers that will help guide your success in the academic job market for faculty positions at the best business schools around the world. You will work with the faculty on joint research projects for potential publication in leading academic journals. In addition to a series of courses focused on research methodology and the foundations of the discipline, you will be exposed to research seminars given by top researchers in the field. We enable close interactions not just through participation and supervision in the Finance Group but also with other researchers through seminars, meetings with speakers and the organisation of research visits at some of the finest finance departments outside of Cambridge. All students are fully funded during their years on the programme.

What are the advantages of our Finance PhD over other programmes elsewhere?

There are numerous PhD programmes on offer around the world, so why should you opt for the programme at Cambridge Judge? You'll find that we have several major advantages. Our programme is closely integrated with the rest of the University of Cambridge, meaning that you have easy access to researchers studying a huge variety of topics at a world-class level. The Finance Group has also established a number of specialised interdisciplinary centres, which offer access to unique data that is found nowhere else in the world. Two examples of these are the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) and the Newton Centre for Endowment Asset Management. The CCAF is directed by leaders from the Finance Group and the departments of Geography and Sociology and is currently in the process of populating the largest database in the world of transactions that take place outside the formal financial market. So far, it contains individual loan-level data for over a million peer-to-peer transaction in the UK alone. This unique dataset is currently hosted at the School, and access to it is restricted to students at the University. The Newton Centre is also home to exclusive data on the holdings of extreme long-horizon investors, such as college funds and sovereign wealth funds. Each centre hosts a number of postdoctoral students and has an active research programme.

What we expect from our PhD students

We welcome applicants from highly regarded universities that have earned an undergraduate and possibly a first graduate degree in financial, mathematical or business economics and performed within the top five per cent in their class; please see the MPhil in Finance academic requirements for more detail. We expect our students to demonstrate a high level of commitment to an academic career in a business school - your academic preparation is key. 

Finance research is quantitative in nature. As such, we look for applicants whose backgrounds reflect quantitative and methodological rigour on par with the preparation offered by our MPhil in Finance programme.

Research by the Finance group focuses on the investment and financial decisions of firms and financial institutions. The group is committed to translating research into practice through links with the private sector, regulators and policy makers, and dedicated to teaching that is inspired and enriched by its research findings.

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