Alan Morrison is Professor of Law and Finance at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Merton College. He is currently Head of the FAME Group at Saïd Business School. A former banker, his areas of expertise include bank regulation, investment banking, bank supervision and corporate governance.
Alan’s work is concerned with two aspects of the financial sector. First, he studies the regulation of banks and its effects upon real economic activity; second, he is interested in the institutions that support the financial system and the way that they are altered by legal and technological changes. He is co-author, with William J. Wilhelm, Jr., of Investment Banking: Institutions, Politics, and Law. He publishes frequently in leading journals, including the American Economic Review, the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics and the Review of Finance.
Alan is an Associate Member of the Oxford Man Institute of Quantitative Finance. He is also a Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research, London. He has served as specialist advisor to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and as a consultant to the World Bank, and has been a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Since joining Saïd Business School in 2000, Alan has made a substantial contribution to the design and delivery of its teaching programmes. He has served as Director of the MSc in Financial Economics and the Diploma in Financial Strategy. He has designed and taught core and elective courses on the MBA, EMBA, MSc in Law and Finance and MSc in Financial Economics, and is the creator and Director of the Oxford Finance Programme for Senior Executives.
Alan holds a BA in Mathematics and a DPhil in Finance from the University of Oxford, and an MSc in Information Technology from Imperial College, London. Before taking his MSc and DPhil degrees, he worked in the City of London, firstly at Morgan Grenfell, and latterly at S.G. Warburg, where he was Director of Division.
Areas of expertise include:
Alan’s research is concerned with financial intermediaries and the institutions that support their activities. He is interested in the real effects of regulation, and the way that changes to the legal and technological environment affect the structure and the activities of financial institutions.
Carried out in collaboration with Professor Lucy White of the Harvard Business School, this work examines the most effective forms of regulation of banks when the actions of the bank are not contractible, and the quality of the regulator is uncertain. Alan and White present a series of models in which banker incentives are sharpened by capital adequacy requirements. They also demonstrate that capital requirements can, in some circumstances, substitute for regulator competence. Hence, if informed capital is scarce, a level playing field policy in capital regulation may be incorrect, because it forces all banks to hold the same level of capital.
Alan and White use the same framework to consider the effects of deposit insurance and cross-border banking, and to analyse the effect of unknown regulatory quality upon financial stability. For example, they find that regulators may be justified in forebearing on weak banks if knowledge of those banks’ poor performance could result in a crisis of confidence in the regulator and, hence, in a general panic.
In an earlier paper on this topic, of which he was the sole author, Alan was one of the first to argue that the opaque nature of the credit derivatives market was a potential source of instability in the financial markets, because bankers who could insure themselves against losses on loans were less likely to exercise caution when extending and monitoring those loans.
In a series of papers, many co-written with Professor Gyöngyi Lórànth of the University of Vienna, this work examines the impact that organisational structure has upon the flow of information in banks, and upon the incentives that bankers face. For example, a multinational bank that chooses to operate through branches may have a different appetite for risk than one that prefers to expand through subsidiaries. Similarly, Alan and Gyöngyi demonstrate that incentives to generate and to share information about loans may be affected in large hierarchical banking organisations by the form of capital regulations.
This work has also yielded conclusions about universal banking. Alan and Gyöngyi demonstrate that, within a universal bank, the tying of lending to underwriting business can alleviate credit rationing by ensuring that the lender receives an adequate share of the surplus generated by lending. Hence, contrary to intuition and current legislation, tying may in some circumstances be a desirable action.
This research is largely undertaken with William J. Wilhelm, Jr. of the University of Virginia. Alan and William study the institutional structures that support investment banking, and ask how those structures change in response to alterations in legal and information technology. This work generates insights into recent changes to the structure of the banking sector, and helps predict future developments.
The central thesis of the work is that investment banks have historically been involved in businesses where information is hard to come by, and very hard to transmit in codified form. As a result, bankers have developed institutional structures that support trade when critical information has this quality. Changes to legal systems and advances in information technology both have the capacity to alter the types of information that can be transmitted using formal mechanisms and, hence, to change the structures that support investment banking.
Alan and William have published a book that examines the history of the investment banking industry using this framework. They have also written several papers identifying institutional changes to investment banks, such as the move away from the partnership form or the embrace of the universal bank, explained by their theory. Most recently, they have started to think about changes to reputational incentives in investment banking, and the most appropriate regulatory response to those changes.
Alan engages with a variety of people and organisations to address issues arising in the contemporary financial climate. He travels widely to attend and speak at conferences and seminars in his field, and is the co-founder, with Joel Shapiro, of the Oxford Financial Intermediation Theory conference.
Alan is a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Institute for Economic Affairs, a prominent market-oriented think tank. He is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research.
In 2006 Alan was a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In 2009 he served as Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into Banking Supervision and Regulation.
Alan referees papers for numerous academic journals and serves on the editorial boards of the Review of Finance and Economic Affairs. He has also served as external examiner for taught degrees at a number of other universities and business schools, as well as performing PhD examinations.
Alan has written and currently teaches the core Finance course to students on the MBA and MLF (Masters in Law and Finance) programmes.
The core Finance course is challenging for those students without a background in the subject. While there is no way to avoid the numerical elements of finance, Alan concentrates on core concepts and employs extensive class discussion to ensure that student can ask questions, and share his or her relevant experience.
In the past he has also taught this core module to students doing the EMBA and the Diploma in Financial Strategy, as well as running the core Corporate Finance course on the MSc in Financial Economics.
Alan has extensive experience as an executive education coach. He directs and teaches the Oxford Finance Programme for Senior Executives, designed for senior managers who do not have a finance background. The course attracts high-calibre participants from a diverse range of sectors and countries. Alan has also taught on customised programmes for clients in Europe, the US and Asia.
Alan has supervised a number of DPhil students, some of whom have gone on to prestigious appointments at universities and international financial bodies. He has also acted as external examiner for PhD candidates at the London School of Economics.
Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street