In this series, Gabbi Stopp, Head of Employee Share Ownership at ProShare, takes an honest look at what it's like to study, while working and managing family commitments.
It seems that I'm surprising not just myself, but members of my family - I've finally become an early bird! After 38 years of being firmly in the night owl camp, my circadian rhythms have thrown me a curve-ball.
Staying at my in-laws' house over the weekend, I found myself waking up early and sitting at their dining room table for a couple of hours of uninterrupted study before the rest of the household had woken up. I'd forgotten how lovely it is to be the only one awake in the house, enjoying quiet solitude whilst the rest of the family sleeps. My father-in-law is usually the first one up and about, and I think he was a little surprised to find me a) awake a b) studying! Given half a chance I am normally quite happy to pull the duvet over my head while everyone else eats breakfast...how times change.
The regulatory framework of markets and how they function is proving unexpectedly fascinating to me. Essentially, markets operate the way human beings do i.e. irrationally at times, and in my view they require 'guard-rails' to prevent the more perverse outcomes of unfettered behaviour. I have, for a number of years, pursued a casual interest in the field of behavioural economics, sparked initially by the FT's Tim Harford and his column 'The Undercover Economist' and further fanned by the work of Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein (their book 'Nudge' is a great primer), Levitt & Dubner's 'Freakonomics', Paul Dolan's 'Happiness by Design', among others.
Gaining a more detailed understanding of the plethora of asset classes that now exist in financial markets is also giving me some very helpful context for my day-to-day role at ProShare
. We are a member-led organisation that seeks to promote employee share ownership in the UK, and my previous roles in employee share plans at several FTSE100 companies have all focused on the use of equities for this purpose.
One of the key reasons for operating share plans is to align shareholder, executive and employee interests and to overcome the principal-agent divide. My studies are prompting me to re-evaluate the dynamic between shareholders and debtholders of companies - in the UK, shareholder primacy is enshrined in the latest iteration of the Companies Act, but it strikes me that a company's debt holders ought to be given greater prominence given the importance of debt as a means of financing corporate growth ambitions.
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