Friday, December 17, 2010

Oprah was not there and neither was George Clooney but Chicago still Sparkled with Intellectual Brilliance

It takes a special event to bring me to Chicago in the months of December and January.

When my students, colleagues, and neighbors heard that I had accepted an invitation to go to Chicago this past week they knew that it had to be something special. Of course, they all told me to say hello to Oprah. I did not want to disappoint them to tell them that she was south of the equator in Sydney, Australia, where the Sydney Opera House was renamed in her honor (for a few days) and she escaped the frigid weather of the north plus all the stranded plane, train, and automobile stories.

The event that brought me to Chicago was the Measuring Systemic Risk Conference that was co-hosted by the Milton Friedman Institute of the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and New York. This event, which I had written about prior to my departure, brought together academics, bankers, regulators, insurance execs, financiers, and other practitioners, who are deep, passionate thinkers to discuss financial crises and the most recent one, in particular. The conference program was fantastic.

I had the pleasure of serving on the Network Analysis panel on the first day of this conference and the discussions were so fascinating and stimulating that lunch was late. Joining me on the panel were: my colleague from the Finance and Operations Management Department at the Isenberg School, Mila Getmansky Sherman, who spoke on her recent financial network analysis paper with Lo and co-authors plus on system dynamics, Sujit Kapadia, of the Bank of England, who discussed his work there on financial analysis and networks with a focus on measurement, and Kimmo Soramaki, the founder of the company, Financial Network Analytics, who is also a fellow blogger. Soramaki (you may be able to guess from the name) is Finnish but he told me that he now lives in Barcelona. The panel was moderated by Nicholas Economides of NYU, who also spoke.

As Andrew Lo, of the Sloan School at MIT (who needs no introductions), stated when he asked all the participants to introduce themselves, the amount of brainpower in the room was extraordinary (and I would also add that this was one of the most interesting, warm, and engaging groups that I have ever been part of).

I left with new additions to my professional network and a wealth of interesting research ideas. It was also terrific to speak with Perry Mehrling of Columbia and BU, John Liechty of Penn State, Reena Aggarwal of Georgetown University, Sanjoy Mitter of MIT, and even John Birge of the Booth School of the University of Chicago was there (it was great to see him).

I congratulate Professors Lars Peter Hansen of the University of Chicago and Andrew Lo of MIT plus David Marshall of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for a truly exceptional conference!

The conference presentations, additional readings, and event synopses of the discussions will be posted on the conference website, as they become available.

Above are photos taken at the conference venue, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and at O'Hare airport where I photographed a fantastic jazz band that was playing close to my departure gate, B9. I did not see George Clooney and although we ended up stuck on the tarmac on my United flight (the automatic brakes needed fixing) we eventually got "Up in the Air!" I made it back in time to proctor my undergraduate course final exam since, as torn as I was, I believe it very important to see my wonderful students at the end of the course and to wish them all the best.

I have posted my conference panel presentation on Financial Networks, which may be accessed here.

As for what I was doing in Chicago last January, I spoke at the Symposium on Transportation Network Design and Economics at Northwestern University, which was organized by Hani S. Mahmassani in honor of the visit of Martin Beckmann (another invitation that I could not refuse, although it took me about two weeks to defrost afterwards).