Meet UBC Sauder’s new faculty – Ella Patelli
This year, UBC Sauder welcomes eight new lecturers and tenure-track faculty to the school. In the first of this series, we introduce you to Ella Patelli, Assistant Professor, Finance Division, UBC Sauder School of Business.
At UBC Sauder, faculty members are more than just ‘professors.’ They conduct impactful research that is changing how society views the world while also inspiring students to pursue their academic passions and become the thoughtful, values-driven leaders the business world needs. This year, UBC Sauder welcomes eight new lecturers and tenure-track faculty to the school. In the first of this series, we introduce you to Ella Patelli, Assistant Professor, Finance Division, UBC Sauder School of Business.
Where are you from, and what brought you to UBC Sauder?
I am from Switzerland, and I did my undergrad in Geneva, then moved to Montréal to pursue my PhD. I returned to Switzerland for a few years when I had my son, but soon felt like it was time for a new adventure. The finance faculty at UBC Sauder is unique, not only because of its long tradition of research excellence, but also – and this is important to me – because there is a real team spirit in our department.
What are your areas of research?
My research focuses on asset pricing. I have two streams of research: I study how exchange rates evolve, and I study how the price of stocks are shaped. These two areas of research are fairly disconnected, which I see as an asset: my knowledge of one research field helps me be more creative when I try to solve issues in the other research field.
What fuels your research – what prompted you to research this area?
I feel like I got here a bit by accident! I initially wanted to work in social sciences, as I am interested in understanding how humans interact and how our collective behaviors shape the world. I quickly realized that I always seem to need to find ways to quantify things – I was not built for qualitative research, which is why I decided to do a masters in Economics and Econometrics, and later pursued a PhD in Finance. I always thought finance was a mysterious universe, with its specific language and codes. I wanted to understand finance, and this is what shapes my research: I read the news and see things I don’t understand or things that make no sense, which prompts reflection and turns into a paper. For example, one of my papers came about when I realized that some CEOs were using tweets to influence stock prices: I could not understand why the markets were falling for these strategies and so I developed a model to understand it.
What inspires you to teach?
I feel like many people are intimidated by finance in general, and I find it rewarding to be a guide into that universe. Finance is an important determinant in the power relations between communities. Our financial system is imperfect, and I trust that future generations will improve it. I hope my classes will help them in that direction.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve discovered through your research?
My most important discovery so far, in terms of public interest, is related to exchange rates. In a co-authored paper, we show that the financial health of governments (i.e. the default risk of governments) is an important determinant of exchange rates. This is an important finding as it allows to partially predict exchange rates using information related to governments debt. It also shows the far-reaching implications of government indebtedness.
What do you believe is the future of your industry?
Researchers are excellent at solving financial problems and identifying issues within the financial system, but we also follow trends and incorporate societal developments into our research. Recently, for example, there has been research on finance and gender issues, and finance and the environment. These are great steps towards finance research that serves society. In that vein, some schools develop classes on financial literacy for the general public. I personally love that idea, however there is more to be done in order to work towards a more equalitarian society. I think that we need to use our financial knowledge and be creative, and an effective way to do this is to cultivate diversity within our profession. Great steps have been taken in that direction already, but we need to keep pushing.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
I once ranked second at the swiss fencing championship! It is actually a funny story because due to extraordinary reasons, we were only two to compete, so I was second and thus last. I always tell this story as a joke, because the truth is that I am a terrible fencer. My true passion is beach volleyball, and I spend my summers playing with my husband and friends. I already know how awesome the beach volleyball scene is in Vancouver, so I’m very much looking forward to next summer.
What else are you looking forward to in Vancouver?
I come from a mountainous area in Switzerland, so I need my outdoors activities to remain healthy and happy. I’m looking forward to the many hiking trails that Vancouver has to offer, and I’m also looking forward to improving my cross-country skiing technique! Additionally, I feel that the school system here is very aligned with my own views on education and child development, so I am excited for my son to experience and hopefully thrive in the school system here.