The LOEWE Centre known as SAFE has set itself the goal of learning lessons from the recent financial crisis and helping to establish sustainable financial architecture in Europe. How do you intend to achieve this? SAFE involves a very large group of research scientists - more than 60 professors and post-doc researchers in Frankfurt, who are working with another 30 or so academics from other international universities and organisations. This enables us to examine the topic of finances from many angles. At the same time, we are trying to keep our eye on the big picture all the time by means of focusing on issues of overriding importance and interdisciplinary fields of study. The fact that economists, management experts, lawyers and sociologists are all working together at SAFE and contributing their different approaches and methods helps us to achieve this. We then actively communicate the results of our research work to policy-makers in the world of politics.
From which angle do you view the financial markets? I am primarily concerned with decisions made by private households. How much are they saving and which factors play a role in their choice of financial investments? This is relevant for regulation purposes, for example. How much protection do private investors need and how much freedom do they require? My co-author Michalis Haliassos and I have been using a current SAFE project to investigate how households in former East Germany accepted products such as shares, bonds or consumer loans, which were completely unknown to them from their past experience, after German reunification. We discovered that they very quickly used these financial products in a very similar way to comparable West German households. So, the lack of experience did not discourage them. We were unable to record any sudden drops in demand for loans, which would suggest that they were disappointed with the product. This could well contradict previous regulatory approaches, which often assume that people need to be familiar with financial products before they use them. Other aspects, such as financial education in particular, could be much more important, however.
In addition to your research, you are also responsible for gender equality issues in SAFE... Yes, I coordinate the women's network in SAFE. Unfortunately, women are still very much a minority in the world of economics and we are trying to assist young female researchers and young families by providing childcare during conferences or dual-career support, for example.
With three children, a degree from Yale and a professorship at Harvard, you are definitely a good example of this? My experience in the USA is certainly an advantage when it comes to making SAFE even more family-friendly. I can of course also identify with young female researchers very well and we want to attract them to Frankfurt. When I arrived here from Harvard with my family in 2009, I was grateful for any help too.
- Professor in the House of Finance at Goethe University Frankfurt
- Project manager in the research area "Household Finance" at the LOEWE Centre SAFE