My life in a few words:
I was born in Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, but grew up in a small town near Stuttgart in Southwest Germany. After spending two years in the German army, I started studying economics in Tübingen, with a year abroad in Kansas and Costa Rica. In Kansas I learned to appreciate the way economics was taught in the US and in Costa Rica I developed my interest in development and financial economics, which ultimately steered my academic interest and later my professional career into this direction. After getting my economics degree in Tübingen in 1995, I left for my PhD studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA.
Our first year as PhD students was the intellectual equivalent of the bootcamp in the military – just that we did not get our weekends off (“we don’t want you to run into trouble with the local police department”, as one of our professors told us). The second year was more exciting, the last time I really had time to extensively read academic papers and think seriously about them! And I met my PhD supervisor and long-standing co-author Ross Levine! Ultimately, Charlottesville is where I got my PhD and where I met my wife – not a bad outcome!
After my second year of the PhD programme, I joined the World Bank’s research department as research assistant, while writing my PhD thesis. Two very tangible outcomes of the two years I spent there were the Financial Development and Structure Database and the Database of Political Institutions.
After getting my PhD in 1999, I became a Young Professional at the World Bank and spent the next nine years doing research and working on policy questions. I would certainly call these the most formative years of my professional career. My research agenda shifted towards SME finance and regulatory and supervisory questions. At the same time, I undertook quite some policy work in several Latin American and Sub-Saharan African countries, as well as China and Russia. Many of these ‘missions’ also informed subsequent policy questions, among them on financial inclusion and bank failure management. In the last years at the World Bank, I was part of a small group that started collecting data on access to finance, among others the predecessor of what is now known as Financial Access Survey, as well as a database on the cost of accessing finance.
In 2008, I decided to try for something new and left for a position at the economics department of Tilburg University in the Netherlands. At the same time, I was asked to build up the European Banking Center, an interdisciplinary research centre bringing together researchers in economics, finance, law and political science. The Global Financial and Eurodebt crises informed my research agenda going forward, both on bank resolution and on cross-border supervisory cooperation, two areas where Europe had miserably failed during the crises. At the same time, I continued working on finance in Africa, co-authoring two policy reports.
In 2013, I left the Netherlands for the UK and took up a position at Bayes Business School (then known as Cass Business School). Working and teaching in a business school turned out to be quite a culture shock but also an experience that I quite enjoyed; there is a lot to be learned after all from MBA students and their real life experiences. During my eight years in London, I also got more involved in European institutions, including as ECB research consultant and member of the Advisory Scientific Committee of the European Systemic Risk Board. During these eight years, I also became an editor, first at Review of Finance for three years, then Economic Policy for six years and then at the Journal of Banking and Finance, all time consuming but also rewarding tasks.
During the pandemic, a unique and exciting opportunity came up, that of a position at the European University Institute (EUI) as Director of the Florence School of Banking and Finance and Professor of Financial Stability. Even at the cost of losing my sabbatical in London, I am more than happy to have accepted this new challenge in 2021.
This new position also takes me back where I started out – to an international organisation. I am managing a group of thirty-plus people (as of summer 2023 and still growing), working on executive education, policy work and research, as part of the interdisciplinary Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. In addition to my position at the EUI, I was appointed co-chair of the Advisory Scientific Committee of the European Systemic Risk Board for the period 2023-27. A demanding but interesting agenda!
And here is the official bIo, not as much fun:
Thorsten Beck is Director of the Florence School of Banking and Finance and Professor of Financial Stability at the European University Institute. He is co-chair of the Advisory Scientific Committee of the European Systemic Risk Board (2023-27) and Co-editor of the Journal of Banking and Finance. He is a research fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and the CESifo. He was professor of banking and finance at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) in London between 2013 and 2021 and professor of economics from 2008 to 2014 and the founding chair of the European Banking Center from 2008 to 2013 at Tilburg University. Previously he worked in the research department of the World Bank from 1997 to 2008 and, over the past 12 years, has worked as consultant for – among others - the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the BIS, the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Commission, and the German Development Corporation. His research, academic publications and policy work have focused on two major questions: What is the relationship between finance and economic development? What policies are needed to build a sound and effective financial system? In addition to numerous academic publications in leading economics and finance journals, he has co-authored several policy reports on access to finance, financial systems in Africa and cross-border banking and he has research and policy experience across a large number of countries across the world. In addition to presentation at numerous academic conferences, including several keynote addresses, he is invited regularly to policy panels across Europe. He holds a PhD from the University of Virginia and an MA from the University of Tübingen in Germany.
For the academic year 2017/18 he was the 6th Tun Ismail Ali Chair at University of Malaya and Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank)
My columns on VoxEU
Recently accepted and published:
Liquidity Creation, Investment, and Growth (joint with Robin Dottling, Thomas Lambert and Mathijs van Dijk), Journal of Economic Growth 28, 297-336, 2023
Have Banks Caught Corona? Effects of COVID on Lending in the U.S. (joint with Jan Keil), Journal of Corporate Finance 72, Article 102160, 2022.
Follow the money: does the financial sector intermediate natural resource windfalls? (joint with Steven Poelhekke), Journal of International Money and Finance 130, Article 102679, 2023
Bank sectoral concentration and risk: Evidence from a worldwide sample of banks (joint with Olivier De Jonghe and Klass Mulier), Journal of Money, Credit and Banking 54, 1709-39, 2022.
The Economics of Supranational Bank Supervision (joint with Consuelo Silva Buston and Wolf Wagner), Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis 58, 324-51, 2023.
Access to finance: adaptability and resilience during a global pandemic, Accounting and Business Research 53, 565-79, 2023