Finance professor works for SEC, learns how academia influences regulations

October 2018

Jay Murdock

When some people say they’re taking a year off from their job, they’re planning to travel the world, seek to fulfill their dreams, or just relax. That’s not what Dr. Haim Kassa Gebeyehu had in mind.

Kassa, an assistant professor of finance at the Farmer School since 2013, instead spent the last year in Washington D.C. working for the Securities and Exchange Commission. “I wanted to see how the research we do is incorporated into the regulatory environment, and that was an eye-opening experience for me.“

Instead of being an assistant professor, Kassa became a visiting academic scholar. “I was a financial economist in the office of asset management division, writing rules that govern the asset management industry,” he explained. “In academia, we really don’t see how our research affects the real economy, the real output. When I was at the SEC, I learned that most of the rules I was working on use academic research to support why we need those rules.”

“This experience made me think more about how the research I do affects policy, as I was very impressed by the amount of academic research used in the rulemaking process," Kassa remarked.

Most of Kassa’s work was on rules governing exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. “When ETFs come into the market, there are some provisions they have to satisfy. We made sure that they are satisfying those provisions, while making sure the restrictions we were imposing were not too costly or would harm investors,” he said.

“It’s like a balance. On one hand, you don’t want to put too much restriction so that the sponsors would be harmed, but on the other hand, you don’t want to leave too much to the sponsors, because investors may be harmed,” Kassa noted.

Kassa said that a typical day at the SEC involved working on the rules, attending meetings to talk about upcoming rules, and participating in academic seminars. While he doesn’t have immediate plans to go back to the SEC, Kassa said he already knows the job he’d want next time. “If I go back to visit again, I’d work with the office of litigation economics to understand how rules are interpreted in the courts.”

Haim Kassa Gebeyehu head shot