As an assistant professor of finance at the Wharton School, Alex Edmans often left others wondering where he was going to appear next.
There he skated the ice as captain of one of Wharton’s hockey teams, or walked the runway at an MBA fashion show, or jammed in the Battle of the Bands. He has appeared in three Wharton Follies musicals. He donned gloves for the Wharton V. Penn Law Fight Night, boxing in the Blue Horizon boxing ring, made famous by Rocky Balboa himself.
As the head coach of DetermiNation Philadelphia, the American Cancer Society’s endurance program, Edmans coached a Wharton MBA group during the city’s half and full marathons. After finishing his half, he ran to the 12 mile mark to cheer on his students and run their last miles with them. He then ran to mile 25 to do the same for the students who ran the full marathon. Wharton Against Cancer has lifted more than any other team, and it remains one of Edman’s proudest teaching moments.
“It was almost like ‘Where’s Charlie?’ from Wharton. He was showing up everywhere and I was like, “I don’t have time to do 25% of what he does. How does he find the energy? When does this guy sleep? Says Luke Taylor, a finance professor from Wharton who joined business school a year after Edmans in 2008.
âAlex is a truly unique person in our profession. He enjoys unique success as an academic – he is one of the most talented researchers of his generation, âTaylor said. Poets and Quants. âAnd he has unique success as a teacher. I think one of the reasons students love it is that it connects with them, and not just in an academic sense. He builds relationships with them and talks to them about bigger things like the purpose and what it means to have a meaningful career. I think they really appreciate it.
POETS & QUANTS MBA PROFESSOR OF THE YEAR: ALEX EDMANS
Between extracurricular activities, Edmans, now a finance professor at London Business School, pioneered corporate social responsibility (CSR) research years before it became all the rage. He presented his research at the World Economic Forum in Davos and testified before the British Parliament. His TED talk on what to trust in a post-truth world and a TEDx talk at LBS on the corporate social responsibility have collected over 2.4 million views.
He regularly consults with business practitioners and is the Editorial Director of Financial review, one of the world’s leading financial journals. He has also won countless teaching awards – as a teaching assistant at MIT, as an assistant and associate professor of finance at Wharton, and as a professor at LBS.
For its pioneering research in CSR; for his impact and influence on hundreds of MBA students; and for his comprehensive efforts in disseminating research not only to business practitioners but to a much wider audience, Alex Edmans is Poets and QuantsâMBA teacher of the year.
Edmans is the fifth professor to receive this honor. Past winners include Harvard’s Deepak Malhotra (2020), Lalin Anik from UVA Darden (2019), Jennifer Aaker from Stanford (2018), and Greg Fairchild from Darden (2017).
“He has taken a personal body of research and converted it into something that has an impact on three key communities: the university community where he continues to be a leader in producing high quality research, his student community where he uses this research to teach concepts around finance and accountability, and the community of practice where he has had a real influence on policies and practices around the responsible business agenda, âexplains Tom Gosling , Executive Fellow of Finance at LBS, a position that links the academic research of LBS professors with leading companies.
âI just don’t see many people having such a balanced impact on these three ridings, each feeding off the other in very successful ways. I think he’s a pretty inspiring role model for others in the profession.
ON SOCCER, THE STOCK MARKET AND FIND YOUR PASSION
People who know Edmans describe him as a generous colleague with boundless energy. He is tireless in his pursuit of a wide range of interests – from music to sports, to teaching, to rigorous scholarship – and he often speaks of finding his passions in his lectures and public engagements. (You can find his lectures and lectures all over YouTube or on his personal website.)
It’s not that he has endless energy, he says, but that he only pursues the things that energize him. This means saying “no” if necessary. âIf a research project has a good chance of getting published in a leading journal, but I’m not keen on the topic, I won’t,â he says.
Growing up in Reading, England, Edmans played for the Junior National Chess Team and was a football fanatic. (He said Poets & Quants in 2017 that if he wasn’t a business school teacher, and if his abilities weren’t an issue, he would be the manager of a Premier League football club.) he studied a mix of STEM courses and humanities instead of choosing a track like most students do. He studied economics at the University of Oxford because the English approach to the subject invites a deep and lively debate.
“That’s why I really like economics and business: on the one hand, you have theories, so it’s not purely subjective, but it’s not like physics where there is a good or a wrong answer, âsays Edmans. Poets and Quants. âWe can look at different theories of optimal taxation, for example, and I could argue that taxes should be higher, and you could argue that taxes should be lower. And we can both respect each other’s opinions.
Edmans worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley for about 2 years after college. He enjoyed being 21, being around CFOs of large companies and working on complex transactions that could shape the future of the company. His first big contract was covered by the Financial Time.
âAnd the next day he completely disappeared. I thought, âI’ve spent seven, eight months of my life working on some business issues at one point,â Edmans says. âAs a professor, if you find a general result, let’s say the effect of corporate governance on the performance of the company, well it’s timeless. This will apply to many companies in different industries and at different times. “
NEXT PAGE: Finding the Business Case for Responsibility
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