Sunday, November 17, 2019

Investing in Private Markets for Social and Environmental Benefits - Brilliant Lecture by UMass Amherst PhD Alum Dr. Stavros Siokos

A fabulous aspect of being an academic is not only the fascinating people one meets professionally but also in that one is always learning, growing, and challenging oneself. 

Some of that great professional and personal growth comes through hearing experts speak on their latest work!

This past week, I had the pleasure of welcoming back to the UMass Amherst campus, my 6th PhD student, Dr. Stavros Siokos, who is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Astarte Capital Partners, based in London, England. Dr. Siokos and I co-authored the Financial Networks book, which was published by Springer  in 1997, as well as multiple journal articles.
Stavros has had a meteoric career in the financial industry and it was wonderful to have him speak in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series. He has received major awards for his work, including the "CEO Today Europe Award 2018," "Game Changer of 2018" by the Finance Monthly, and "The Most Innovative Manager of 2017" by Fund Intelligence.
Dr. Siokos flew in from London to Boston and, Tuesday evening, on a very chilly day that broke records, we dined at Judie's in downtown Amherst. The food was delicious!
Stavros started his career at Salomon Brothers in London and later became Managing Director of Citigroup. I recall picking up a copy of the Wall Street Journal and seeing the announcement of his appointment as Managing Director! When I have a chance to be in London, I always try to make a point of seeing him. And, because he has offices in major cities around  the globe, I have even "run into" him in the middle of Manhattan, during the holiday season, no less.

His talk at the Isenberg School on investing in private markets for social and environmental benefits was truly inspirational.
As a PhD alumnus of UMass Amherst, it was very special and meaningful for the PhD students and, even undergraduates in the audience, to see what one can accomplish through hard work, dedication, focus, and also charisma, I might add. A favorite slide from his presentation was the one below quoting Charles Darwin, which Stavros paraphrased as: "If you aren't able to adapt to change, you die!"
Stavros began his talk by emphasizing UN sustainability goals, and the making of investments that "help" everyone. He asked the question: "What is the biggest impact that we can have?"

He also noted mega macro trends in his fabulous presentation, including the ageing of the population, food security, and climate change.
He emphasized that "if you do something good, you will make more." He discussed, also accompanied with outstanding videos, some of  his company's investments, from Project Cusco in Paraguay, where eucalyptus is being grown with areas between the growth reserved for farming; investments in India and East Africa, with the latter involving a female in Kenya, who is producing very successful soap products,  as well as the amazing Olympia project that he is involved in, in London!

It was clear that his Operations Research PhD background illuminates a lot of his work. He stated that "let's do mining, but make it better;"  "let's make container ships more efficient," and so on. It was clear from his presentation that, when it comes to supply chains and sustainability, that we need to include the full life cycle costs and impacts.

It was also very moving to hear about the investments into education, including that of children with disabilities.

Stavros has had the pleasure of meeting Nelson Mandela and former President Bill Clinton, among many other leaders, and has even been advising Warren Buffett. Buffett once asked Stavros his ideas on how to become successful, and, when Stavros told him that it is "Doing what you want, where you want to do it, and when," Buffet responded that that is the definition of success. But to achieve that, you have to hang in there until you become "lucky."

I always tell my students that one needs to take into consideration where an individual has started from to appropriately measure one's success. 

After his fabulous presentation, I took a photo of some of the students with Dr. Siokos.
Haris Sipetas, the incredible UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter webmaster, conducted an interview with Dr. Siokos in the Supernetworks Lab at the Isenberg School. The interview, once edited and approved, will be posted on the chapter's youtube channel, where you can access previous interviews with our speakers (and learn a lot)! And, for additional photos and highlights, please check out Haris' post on Dr. Siokos' talk. What serendipity and an incredible coincidence - both Sipetas and Siokos had received undergraduate degrees in engineering from the University of Patras in Greece!