The Wisconsin School of Business welcomes Sang Seo, an assistant professor in the Department of Finance, Investment, and Banking. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Seo received his BS in management engineering and mathematics from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and his MA and PhD in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining WSB, he was an assistant professor of finance at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business. Seo shares his thoughts on joining WSB and the University of Wisconsin–Madison community below.
WSB: How did you get into your field of research?
Seo: After graduating from college in 2007, I worked at a bond pricing company in South Korea when the subprime mortgage crisis hit the global economy. I experienced the crisis firsthand, as my role was to build various pricing models for credit derivatives and securitized products. Intrigued by so many unanswered questions surrounding the crisis, I decided to pursue an advanced degree in financial economics to study the link between asset markets and the economy.
WSB: What attracted you to UW–Madison?
Seo: I think the main attraction was the people. There are a lot of faculty members who I can collaborate with and learn from in our department and in the School. Not to mention, UW–Madison has a strong economics department, which is an amazing bonus.
WSB: What was your first visit to campus like?
Seo: I visited campus for the first time in May 2019 for a seminar. The weather was amazing, and it was pretty awesome to have a beer with some colleagues at the Terrace. I guess I was fortunate that my first visit to campus wasn’t in the winter!
WSB: What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?
Seo: Some students think that finance is all about math. Granted, math and statistics are important tools in understanding financial theories and empirical findings. However, I believe that understanding the concepts behind equations is far more important.
This semester I am teaching Finance 305, where I focus on various components of the financial system such as financial markets, institutions, central banking, and regulations. While technical details about each component are an important part of the course, I believe that a big picture understanding of the entire system should be the main takeaway. To this end, my lectures try to provide the historical context and background on why and how the system has evolved to its current state.
WSB: Is there a way your field of study can help the world endure and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the health, finances, and lifestyle of so many?
Seo: My main area of research is asset pricing, especially macro-finance, which attempts to understand the link between macroeconomic fluctuations and financial markets. As one of my research topics, I study rare economic disasters such as the Great Depression and see how the risk of such catastrophic events affects financial markets. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of such rare economic disasters that I am interested in. I am hoping that my research can enhance our understanding of such crises, which can potentially help us better deal with them in the future.
WSB: What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter during video chats (and eventually parties)?
Seo: We cannot imagine a world without a central bank, especially given that we are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. However, the idea of creating a central bank in the U.S. was not supported by the general public for a long time due to the fear of centralized power. This is why the Federal Reserve was established in 1913, more than 200 years after the Bank of England was established.
WSB: Do you have favorite hobbies or other interests?
Seo: My wife and I enjoy watching sporting events, especially baseball games. One of our bucket list items is to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. While we weren’t able to visit any this year due to COVID-19, one of the things we are excited about is that many stadiums are within driving distance from Madison! In my spare time, I also enjoy watching Netflix documentaries, going on hikes, and traveling.