Ernest Butten Professor of Management Studies
Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street
Thomas is an expert on corporate finance and corporate governance. His work has influenced both academic thought and business practice.
Thomas explores the effects of risk and incentives on the design of governance systems, contracts and financial networks. His work has influenced the way companies are financed through the issuance of securities, contributed to the way we analyse systemic risk for firms, and provoked a re-evaluation of the way senior managers are compensated. His work has appeared frequently in all leading finance journals and so many leading economics and management science journals. Currently he serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Corporate Finance, Journal of Banking and Finance, and the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy.
Prior to joining Saïd Business School, Thomas held the AB Freeman Chair in Finance at Tulane University. He is a professorial fellow at Balliol College, and a research associate at the Oxford-Man Institute and the Centre for Corporate Reputation at Oxford University, and the European Institute for Corporate Governance.
- Corporate finance
- Financial security design
- Rewards in high-stake contests
- Management and CEO compensation
- Board design and corporate governance
Read Thomas's CV.
Thomas's research centres on how incentives, information, and competition affect corporate finance and corporate governance.
Specifically, this research focuses on financial security design, investment, governance, and managerial compensation/selection. Much of Thomas's work relates to the problem of designing incentives, control and contact systems, to maximise shareholder value, or to the effect of actual financial and managerial contract structures on corporate value. He as published more than sixty papers in leading academic journals such as Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Review of Financial Studies, American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economic Studies, and Management Science.
His current research projects focus on how belief disagreement, family altruism, personality, and networks affect governance and the behaviour of financial managers.
The questions he is analysing include:
- What securities should firms issue to finance corporate acquisitions?
- How to bonus and rank-based status rewards interact and affect the risk-taking incentives of financial managers?
- How do selection/promotion systems based on relative ranking affect financial managers' effort and risk taking?
- Is it possible for large-scale, impersonal, financial markets to develop in settings where creditors have no legal rights?
Does the Cream Rise to the Top? Luck, Talent, Success, and Merit
Does pay activism pay off for shareholders? Shareholder democracy and its discontents(opens in new window)
Thomas engages with practitioners and policymakers and the broader academic community in a number of ways.
He has consulted with a number of organisations such as the Federal Reserve Bank and Mirant Corporation. He has lectured widely to industry conferences including, for example, the DZ bank conference and has delivered keynote addresses for gatherings such as the 50 Anniversary Finance Conference at IIM-Calcutta and the 3rd Annual Singapore International Finance conference at the National University of Singapore. He serves on the editorial boards of a number of leading journals such as the Journal of Corporate Finance, The Journal of Banking and Finance, and the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy and on a number of conference organizing committees. both in North America (Western Finance and American Finance), Europe (Paris Spring Conference), and Asia (Singapore International Conference). He has won a number of research awards, including at leading academic meetings in North America (Western Finance Association), Asia (China International Conference), and Australia (Australasian Finance and Banking Conference).
Over the span of his career, he has taught and researched at institutions on five continents, including the Federal Reserve Bank, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, National University of Singapore, NTU, Singapore Management University, and IIM-Calcutta, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Auckland, Universidad de Chile, Universidad los Andes, and the University of Queensland.
Thomas teaches on a range of programmes at the School.
He teaches Corporate Finance in the MSc in Financial Economics programme; Theory of Finance in the M.Phil Economics and D.Phil Finance programmes and also tutors Balliol college undergraduates in Finance and Financial Management.
The core model of financial economics lies at the centre of all Thomas' teaching. He believes it is the only logically consistent model for corporate financial decision-making that is simple enough to apply to practical capital budgeting decisions as it is founded on the trade-off between risk and return and rational arbitrage-free pricing of corporate securities.
At the same time, the core model does not reflect a number of important first order effects on financing policy, including collateral, asymmetric information, incentives, and the costs of financial distress. These factors are amenable to logical internally consistent economic modelling, but the resulting models are rarely of sufficient transparency to directly apply to real-world decisions. In teaching students about these topics he employs a much more interactive approach: working through the models and aiming to demonstrate as many practical insights as possible.
The students start with real-world decision problems and, through case analysis and class discussion, develop an appreciation of the role of theory in organising their analysis of these problems.