In the third episode of "Studi meets…", master‘s student Daniel Kotas talks to Professor Per Östberg about competitiveness, quantitative aspects in the studies, and best decisions in life. Read a summary of the talk below or watch the full video online.
Daniel: What I‘m curious about as a student: What do you like and dislike most about teaching?
Per: There are a few things about teaching that are a bit frustrating: preparing the lectures as well as setting and grading exams. But when you do a good job in class and see people suddenly understanding stuff , it’s very satisfying.
Daniel: I agree, I love those moments when I’m sitting in a lecture and the professor can explain complex topics well and it suddenly clicks.
Per: That’s why this job is kind of a privilege: You can explain things that you love to people that are interested in it as well.
Daniel picks a question.
Daniel: The note says: What was the best decision in your life?
Per: To come to the University of Zurich .
Daniel: And how – or why – did you end up here?
Per: That is an interesting question because the way that academics and professors in finance are hired is different. There is an annual conference around Christmas where a lot of universities and applicants meet. During these three days, you might be interviewed by 25 universities. If a university likes you, you will be invited to visit and to give a seminar. If they really want you, they’ll make you an offer. It’s a very strange job market compared to the industry job market because it only happens once a year and everyone from the finance academia is there.
Daniel: I see, so this is like a super intense competition at once!
Per: Yes, but it’s also a fun thing to go through. When you visit the university, you usually only have one day where you can get an impression of the faculty and the city. After that, you have to decide if you want to move there.
Daniel: Yes, that is a very different application process than what we find in the finance industry (laughs).
Per picks a question.
Per: For whom are the banking and finance studies not a suitable program?
Daniel: In general, I would say that there is tendency towards more quantitative stuff in this study program, but I think anybody who has an interest in banking can handle it. Especially in private banking, which Swiss Banking is famous for, soft skills are much more important. Many courses help foster and build up these kind of skills. What interests me in this context: What is the University of Zurich doing to keep or even improve the quality of our education to remain competitive with other universities?
Per: The key is to make sure that we recruit the best professors and that they give the best education in the classroom. Additionally, we need to figure out what skills students need today and in the future, and what we can do to adapt to those needs. My impression is that Switzerland is extremely competitive. I think that is because Switzerland really cares about education and spends a lot on resources for it. I think we are already competitive, but there are always things that we can do to become better of course.
Daniel: So what could we do better then?
Per: We are still collecting data from a faculty review regarding the programs, structures, and courses. It’s a very long process. Of course, we also want to reach out to alumni and alumnae and current students to see what they say about the programs. I think we should do more to give students a sense of connectedness after they graduate. We could be better at that as a department.
Daniel: I just read that the UZH Block chain Center ranks fourth in this year’s Block chain ranking of 230 schools worldwide. What do you think of crypto currencies in finance?
Per: I am the wrong guy for that question (laughs). I find it very interesting, but I don’t know very much about it. For me is clear that we probably will have a digital currency going forward, but I don’t know what it will look like. I’m more concerned about the fact that some people are investing a very high percentage of their net worth in crypto, which is very risky because they are very volatile. What is your take on crypto?
Daniel: I find the technology very interesting, but for me it’s still an unexplored territory to do something serious about it. It is not only volatile from the price perspective, but also regulation wise. I think crypto as a whole is here to stay, but in what form and substance, I have no idea.