Goodman prof honoured as Emerging Scholar

When Jin Lei graduated with his Master of Science in statistics from Northern Illinois University, a PhD in finance beckoned.

The alternative was pursuing a career in number-crunching. It simply didn’t hold the same allure as academia, however.

“You either work for a pharmaceutical company, Statistics Canada or the Bank of Canada where you have to code and crunch data all the time,” Lei said. “I really enjoy applying those things in the real world and it’s possible to do that in a business school.” 

When the Goodman Assistant Professor earned his doctorate in finance from McMaster University, his classmates headed to Bay Street. Lei headed back to the classroom, but this time as a teacher.

This allowed him to interact with students and do research as a university lecturer rather than live the 9-to-5 corporate life. In other words, he felt he could have a more meaningful career in higher education versus one in a high-rise office tower. 

Five years after arriving at Goodman to teach finance and do related research, Lei has been named the business school’s 2019 Emerging Scholar of the Year. The award confirms his decision to forge his own path in life.

“They make more than I do now but I prefer this lifestyle,” Lei said about his former classmates. “I like teaching students. I’m not after money, that’s not my value in life. I wanted to have a positive effect on people’s lives. I also enjoy the freedom of academic research.” 

In just a few short years as an academic, Lei has conducted innovative corporate and behavioural finance research that’s bound to be cited by students and colleagues for years to come.

Most recently, he co-authored a paper about credit risk contagion, exploring how firms and their stakeholders react to the financial distress of peer firms. Using the flu virus as metaphor, Lei and his fellow researchers determined the spillover of peer firms’ financial conditions shapes corporate financial policies and helps banks design efficient lending contracts to reduce loan default rates. 

In the process, he came up with a new way to measure credit risk contagion. Lei is currently refining his research for publication. Ultimately, he has to convince journals and their readers of the merits of his methods.

“It’s not easy to do,” he said. 

Still, it’s in keeping with Lei’s tendency not to follow the pack.

“The key is I constructed a new measure and captured something not already in the literature,” he said. “Other people can further extend the existing literature based on my work so that academics, professionals and policy-makers would have a better understanding of the business world.”

It’s a point of pride for Lei. So is sharing his findings with his students in the classroom, and with others in his field at conferences, where he’s proud to represent Brock and Goodman and spread the school’s strong reputation in teaching and research. 

“It’s an honour for me to let them know there is a university called Brock and it’s doing important and meaningful research,” Lei said. “It’s my great pleasure to receive such a prestigious research award, and I would definitely continue conducting quality research. I’m very grateful for the tremendous research support provided through our business school.”

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