Professor Degeorge explains the importance of research at the SFI

400Professor François Degeorge is Managing Director at the Swiss Finance Institute in Zuerich and explains the importance of research for the Institute.

«Research is at the core of Swiss Finance Institute’s mission. Swiss Finance Institute (SFI) was created in 2006 as a unique public-private partnership through the joint efforts of the Swiss banking industry, the Swiss Confederation, and our Swiss partner universities. The purpose of SFI was to build up finance expertise in Switzerland. The approach was to boost the strength of the Swiss banking and finance academia. Since 2006 SFI has built up one of the largest and most successful finance faculties worldwide. More than 50 SFI professors devote their time and efforts with the sole goal of achieving excellence in banking and finance research and education. Our founders’ model assumes that stronger academic expertise will flow back as spillovers to the finance industry and the Swiss economy».

Is there a field you think should be more studied by the Institute?

Successful research institutes in all fields leave ample freedom to professors to determine which area they want to focus on, and SFI is no exception. This decentralized process has led professors, for example, to become experts in fields such as alternative asset classes, which are very relevant for the Swiss private banking industry. What I intend to emphasize in the future is the engagement of SFI researchers with the Swiss banking and finance practitioners. SFI will complement knowledge transfer (from faculty to industry) with knowledge exchange (between faculty and industry): professors will be able to get early feedback from practitioner experts on their research ideas; in turn, practitioner experts will benefit from professors’ expertise.

What is the importance of SFI in the Swiss financial market?

In my view, SFI is a key contributor to the long-term competitiveness of the Swiss banking and finance industry. Our goal is to achieve excellence in banking and finance research and education. Fundamental research can be interpreted as planting a seed. Of course, this seed usually looks very different from the plant you are planning to cultivate out of it – or in other words, fundamental research in banking and finance is often not as easily accessible to practitioners as we would wish it to be. Thus, knowledge transfer into practice is essential for unfolding the value of academic research and growing the actual plant. SFI is very actively doing so, through our various university and continuing education activities, as well as through our industry-oriented events every year. One can indeed say that we grow knowledge capital, which is to be harvested by Swiss financial industry. This capital comes in the form of several hundred graduates from all levels of SFI education offerings – such as first degrees, the PhD program as well as continuing education – and several thousand participants in SFI industry events each year.

Is there something you think should be improved, and maybe the Institute is studying how to?

SFI just celebrated its 10th anniversary, which also coincides with the completion of the institute’s build-up phase. In the past ten years, we have significantly boosted the expertise of the Swiss banking and finance academia. The task is now to keep our worldwide top position in banking and finance research, and to ensure that spillovers from academic expertise flow efficiently to the Swiss banking and finance industry through intensified education, knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange activities.

How important are research centers in Switzerland?

Switzerland ranks as number one in the world in innovation. Innovation is the source of our prosperity and we must nurture it. Building on the same metaphor: our granaries are still very well stocked and currently provide us with more than enough grain. But if we just consume it, some day the granaries will be empty. Thus, we must use part of the grain as seed for cultivating new plants. And this is exactly what research centers do. They ensure our long-term prosperity and, in the end, increase the Swiss population’s quality of life.


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