International College of Economics and Finance

Christian Julliard: ‘A Researcher Knows “Yesterday”, Understands “Today” And Foresees “Tomorrow”’

All last week Christian Julliard, a Lecturer in the Department of Finance at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the coordinator of the International Laboratory of financial economics at ICEF/HSE, was working in Moscow. Our reporter had a chance to meet with the scholar and talk about his background, interests and Russian impressions >>

All last week Christian Julliard, a Lecturer in the Department of Finance at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the coordinator of the International Laboratory of financial economics at ICEF/HSE, was working in Moscow. This time the goals of his visit were to take part in seminars with ICEF research colleagues and  being an external examiner for the MSc program in Financial Economics, as well as advice his colleagues on their research trajectories. Our reporter had a chance to meet with the scholar and talk about his background, interests and Russian impressions.

— Professor Julliard, can we start with a brief introduction, please? Can you tell us something about your background?

My Father is French, and my Mother is Italian. I lived and studied in both countries for many years, and I’ve got both a Master’s Degree and PhD from the Department of Economics at Princeton University (USA). My wife is a Russian mathematician, and she received her PhD in the USA as well. We’re both scientists, though in different fields.

— I believe our readers might be interested to know how you chose your profession. Why Macroeconomics and Finance? What was your motivation?        

In a sense people become economists out of either private or social interest. The former group study Economics to make money in the private sector; let latter want to influence and increase welfare in the society, for all of us. The latter concerns scholars who study how to evaluate and change “the rules of the game”: taxation, investments, ways to avoid or foresee a crisis and stimulate economic growth, etc. I think most people who are involved in Economics and become academics have a strong public or moral call.

— Am I right assuming that this visit to Russia is not your first one?

Yes, you’re right. My first arrival was not actually connected with my work. When I first visited Russia, nine years ago, I just wanted to meet the parents of my wife. After that I returned a few times and initially had the impression that there was impressive economic growth in the country and, in general, things were getting much and much better. But I’d only seen St. Petersburg and Moscow then. Later, when I started traveling out of the major cities, I understood it had been a naïve illusion. I discovered that there were lots of signs of real poverty in the regions. It was a painful impression. I mean, we, economists, pay special attention to the average difference between living standards at the top and bottom of society. During the last ten years Russia has doubled the index of inequality, i.e. the distance between the richest and poorest. The general picture is shocking and coming to the Russian capital is not coming to Russia. In fact, the economic growth here is concentrated in the hands of the very few. The upper part of society enjoys a European style of living: they travel throughout the world; their kids have access to the best schools; they buy expensive property. But they are a tiny fraction of the population of Russia. So statistical data confirms that there is economic growth in the country, but it is not distributed and widespread. And we should take into account that this growth is provided mostly by the export of natural resources of Russia, not investments. It is not a stable or sustained form of economic growth. If oil and gas were to disappear overnight, Russia would turn into one of the very poorest countries. And this is very worrying.

— It sounds hopeless.

Well, I think it sounds realistic, and the situation is not hopeless. When I see my Russian students I believe into a better future. They are well motivated to understand how economics works; they become critical and capable of analysis; they work hard to develop the necessary skills for research projects and understand and shape the future. These kids think in a different way if compared to the older generations. They are my best hope for Russia. Why do I care? Well, though I’m not a Russian, my kids will be half-Russian.

— When and how did your cooperation with the ICEF start?

If I’m not mistaken I gave my first seminar here in 2006. My LSE colleague Richard Jackman suggested that I go to Moscow, and then step by step I got involved into some course curricula development, into shaping a research group and selecting candidates for academic positions. So one day I found myself deep inside this business with the ICEF.

— What do you see as the most striking difference between the LSE and the ICEF?

Well, the educational strategy and the syllabi of the courses are very similar as undergraduate students of LSE and ICEF have to pass the same tests and exams. But I would like to point out just one, key difference between two institutions. And, in fact, we work hard to overcome this difference. Most ICEF faculty members are teachers by profession, not researchers. It makes a great difference: a teacher knows and provides information about things that happened yesterday, and a researcher can distinguish what’s new today. And this means a lot - like bringing knowledge to the current frontier. 95% of LSE’s faculties are researchers, because being an academic means being a researcher and only in this way can someone become an effective teacher. No doubt. Moreover, only a researcher can ask the relevant questions and figure out answers to these questions. Thus, researchers partly foresee what may come tomorrow in their fields of study. So it’s vital for ICEF to recruit young and talented researchers, and this means that the main goals of my current involvement with ICEF are to hire promising staff for the International Lab of financial economics, consult my younger colleagues on fundamental research strategies and provide them with some guidelines and scholarly advice.                                                                                                                                   

— Finally, how do you usually spend your leisure time?

I’m a passionate photographer and have presented some of my works at public exhibitions. Actually I’m interested in all kinds of visual arts and often visit galleries, exhibitions, theatres, concerts. I love music too.

Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service