Caterina Cruciani for #womeninresearch: 'It’s very personal, It’s business'

This interview is the first one of the series #womeninresearch aiming at giving a voice to researchers at Ca’ Foscari and enhancing their role and work within the university. Comment, share and follow the hastag #womeninresearch.

Caterina Cruciani, born in 1981, researcher at the Department of Management at Ca’ Foscari and Chief Operating Officer and member of the Center for Experimental Research in Management and Economics (CERME).

Researcher, woman and mother, her research focuses on behavioural finance.In her new book  Investor Decision-Making and the Role of the Financial Advisor, she studies how empathy, emotions, trust and interpersonal relations may change financial consulting.
In other words business became “very personal”.

How did your passion for economics come about and what did you study to get where you are?

I studied to become an economist: with a bachelor’s and master’s degree at the department of economics of Ca’ Foscari followed by a doctorate. Immediately after my master’s degree I worked for a few years at the Fondazione ENI Enrico Mattei in Venice and discovered what research was and it was a great training for the job I could have done later in life. It pushed me to go back to the university. During my doctorate I became very interested in non-traditional economics - new models that do not regard people as machines but understand how people can face difficulties to value information and preferences that are unpredictable or may change in time. I first worked on trust in my doctorate dissertation; trust is a broad issue entering many fields including economics but also other social sciences such as psychology, sociology and philosophy.

Can you share your research project and the topic of your book with us?

The book was published with the entry into force of the European directive MiFID 2, a structured response of the European Union to the crisis that review the role of financial intermediary. I felt the need to understand this new legislation, so I have analyzed it in a behavioral finance perspective and observed its cognitive limitations and the potential role of emotions and trust. The profession of financial advisor emerges as someone who manages not only money but also the client. In Italy financial advice is not a pervasive phenomenon like it may be in other countries, but it is a very useful instrument to improve, increase and on many levels facilitate market participation as my research showed. Trust is key as an essential driver in the relationship between the advisor and the client and to get more people involved and improve their work. An entire chapter was dedicated to emotions and personality, a very important field with regards to interpersonal and delegation relations. I also focused on more technical aspects such as the possible roles of advisors and the revision of this legislation.

Trust, emotions and empathy appear to be far from the idea of finance for someone who is not an expert of the field. How have the financial advisor profession changed after the crisis and with this new legislation?

The requisite level of transparency expressed in the legislation entails that costs of financial consulting are listed, contrary to the less transparent system that included a commission system prior to the legislation. In my book I wanted to show how the advisor can contextualize their own profession and instruments and the quality and advantages it offers. FOr instance, a very relevant problem that is important to market regulators is financial education. The consultant must adopt an educational role: it is not a “money doctor” anymore, but he or she transfers skills through trust and facilitates delegation. This new educational role brings up a new relationship in which the client may ask for explanations or build skills that may be useful in the future and improve results.

What are the future developments of this project?

It was extremely interesting and illuminating to work with financial advisors together with my colleagues Gloria Gardenal and Ugo Rigoni, who conducted the empirical part of this research. We grew really close to our partners and I am sure that this project will continue because the book takes stock of the first stage of research, including suggestions that we would like to further explore in a second stage which would not focus on advisors but on clients in order to close the trust circle.

Women and research: according to you, do male and female researchers enjoy access to the same opportunities? Are they treated the same and do they face the same career prospects?

According to me, in Italy men and women are often treated differently in the world of work. I am convinced that the gender gap that can be seen in statistics in respect of salary and senior positions, is real and reflects an outdated existing culture to be reformed. I have two children and maternity influenced my career because children change your life and the perception that other have of you. I think that academia and professional circles such as consulting still have a ways to go as far as gender equality is concerned. I am saying this without sadness or cynicism but as a starting point: I think that academia is the ideal place to try and rethink women’s and men’s roles, because it is a naturally flexible environment.
Numbers create content: when women are included, even on a proportional basis, it is easier to put forward demands meeting the concerns of all. For this reason when I look around and see all these great skilled young colleagues I can only be optimistic because this context is becoming more and more balanced in terms of numbers.

Any dreams and projects for the future?

I love my job and do my best to keep on doing it. This is one the greatest jobs in the world because you can take time to explore your own interest. I certainly hope that in the upcoming years I will be still be part of the experimental research group in the behavioral field of this department at this university, such a dynamic and stimulating context. At the moment I am a grant holder, so I am open to the career opportunities that may emerge.

Valeria Sforzini