Skip to main content

A Look Back at My Time as a Finance PhD Student

Ben Matthies

The finance PhD program at Yale SOM has had one of its best ever years for PhD placement. Six students in the finance PhD program, three from SOM and three from the Economics department (all advised by SOM faculty), have secured jobs at impressive universities and institutions after being on the job market this past fall!

Ben Matthies, a graduating finance PhD student who will begin teaching at Notre Dame University soon, has written a reflection piece about his journey through the Yale SOM PhD program and how it prepared him for his future endeavors.

With graduation approaching, it's been a common pastime to grab a beer with fellow students and look back at our time in the program. First year classes come up quite a bit in conversation. In one exchange, often recalled by the group, a friend, who had struggled on the microeconomics midterm, proclaimed the night before the final exam that he had studied tirelessly for weeks and that “there are 24 types of problems that can show up on the final and I know how to solve 23 of them.” In response to the obvious question, “But what about the 24th?” he had boldly asserted, “I'm not worried about that one - there's no way he'll put that on an in-class exam.” I remember the glance we exchanged after opening our exams the next morning and seeing that exact type of problem.

We have dozens of these stories from the different stressful episodes that characterized our time in the program: from first year classes, to studying for qualifying exams, and most recently going through the job market. But despite our past worries, we tend to look back on these times fondly. Long, taxing study sessions working through notes and old problems have transformed into the good old days where we got to stay up all night doing derivations on the blackboard.

This type of stress is good for growth and so is common to most PhD programs. But, in my experience in the program, Yale does particularly well in providing the type of support that ensures that these situations lead to development and, in turn, fond recollections down the road. The faculty emphasis on collaboration over competition and effort to bring in good-natured students has helped us all throughout classes, exams, and research. During first year classes and quals, we spent most of our time working through the materials together, and later in the program, through discussions - in the office, over dinner, or on the soccer field - we worked together to develop our different areas of research.

The faculty also provide tremendous support directly. My committee, Nick Barberis, Kelly Shue, James Choi, and Geert Rouwenhorst worked with me constantly, providing advice and guidance on my job market paper and on the job market itself. My job market paper, which finds evidence of systematic bias in how people perceive the comovement between two variables, faced two main challenges: documenting evidence that this bias existed in controlled settings; showing applications or evidence of this bias in real world settings. To test for evidence of this bias in controlled settings, I ran several surveys on various participants including financial professionals. Additionally, I purchased several commodities data sets to study whether this bias existed in asset prices. Both components of the paper were expensive but my committee connected me with the ICF and I was able to receive full support for my research. My committee went far beyond the extra mile, and their time and support were invaluable.

This summer, I am very excited to join the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, but I'll also be sad to be leaving New Haven - my six years in the finance program at Yale have been an incredible experience. These days, when my classmates and I grab a beer and look back and reminisce, there are countless stories from our time here. We take that as a sign of time well spent.

Ben MatthiesAbout Ben Matthies: Ben is a sixth-year Ph.D. in finance at the Yale School of Management. His research interests are in asset pricing and behavioral finance. Before his study at Yale, Ben graduated from Dartmouth class of 2010 and worked at a commodities trading fund.

For more information about the Yale SOM PhD program, click here.

The ICF wishes the following graduating PhD students the best of luck in their future careers: