THE WIMWIAN

BOOKSHELF

PROF SP KOTHARI (PGP 1982)

AWARDED HONORARY DOCTORATE DEGREE BY LBS

Prof SP Kothari has received Honorary Degree from London Business School (LBS). He is the Gordon Y Billard Professor of Accounting and Finance at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He has also undertaken duties as chief economist and director of the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis (DERA) at the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The degree acknowledges his rare and longstanding contributions to academia, finance and economics.

 

The news was shared with us by Prof Atanu Ghosh, Faculty at the SJM School of Management, IIT Bombay.

 

We are also sharing the commencement speech at LBS by Prof SP Kothari, as follows

 

“Good morning. I am honored to be here today at one of the world’s leading business schools. I would like to thank the faculty and the trustees of London Business School for conferring an honorary degree.

 

I congratulate the graduating classes of London Business School. The Congregation today represents an assembly of extraordinary individuals. The London Business School’s motto-“To have a profound impact on the way the world does business”-is accurate. A Pantheon of its alumni are leaders in industry and government. And, I am confident that you will follow in their footsteps.

 

I looked up on the website. The average starting salary is a whopping six figures. Congratulations! It’s one testimonial of your caliber and hard work. Memo to parents: if you are still paying for their mobile phone bills, time to sever the cord!

 

Before I begin, I must issue a standard disclaimer. The Securities and Exchange Commission disclaims responsibility for any private publication or statement of any SEC employee of Commissioner. These remarks are my own and express my views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commissioners, or any other members of the Commission staff.

 

Professor Irem Tuna has very generously summarized my professional career. I do not wish to repeat it except to say that I feel enormously privileged and greatly indebted to have enjoyed my life journey that began in a small town in India and took me through various large cities in India for education and employment, and then through the US in Iowa, NY, Boston, San Francisco, and now in DC. In addition, my academic profession gave me the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with great minds in almost all corners of the world, and especially the London Business School on numerous occasions for which I am most grateful.

 

As I reflect on decades of my life and the large numbers of very talented individuals I have had the good fortune of meeting in academia, industry and government, an unmistakable and perhaps obvious observation is that they represent a remarkable blend of people from different nationalities, races, cultures, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds. Talent is the only common thread that stitches across this pool. I have also noticed that this phenomenon is more prevalent in economically more advanced nations than others. Talent is a highly mobile form of capital and in my experience I have seen it flow to places that offer opportunities. While I am no expert in judging what attributes make a place, city, or nation attractive, places that are the envy of talented individuals seem to have a few characteristics in common. These places comprise of societies with a civic sense, jurisdictions with laws that respect freedom, administrations that are efficient, including in enforcing the law, and people who believe in meritocracy and the dignity of labor, but also believe in providing a safety net for the disadvantaged. Talented individuals have gravitated to such places, blossomed there and not only have they done well for themselves, but they have generated positive externalities in their adopted societies. With almost two hundred nations in the globe, the real challenge facing nations therefore is in attracting talent. An aspiring nation must make itself attractive to those with human capital – it will help in retaining local talent and in attracting talent from outside. You are an extraordinarily talented group. You have the opportunity to invest your talent in a lucrative destination, or you have the opportunity to be the change agent who might transform a city or a nation into an attractive destination! Whatever the choice you make, I wish you success.

 

That brings me to my last point. It’s related to the choices and decisions you would be making in your careers. As you successfully progress in your career path, invariably there will be occasions when you come to a fork, a risky option and a safe option. Your past success at the time will nudge you to embrace safety, whereas your passion might tempt you toward risk. I hope you will take some risks to pursue your dreams. Believe me, the safe options will always be around. But if you don’t take risks, you will look back saying “what if I had taken a chance.” As T.S. Eliot said “only those who will risk going too far can possibly know how far one can go.” So go too far on occasion, see what is out there, seize opportunities, and create things that will make a difference.

 

Thank you, again, for the honor of standing in front of you and for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.”