University of Southern California

Fernando Zapatero
Title
Finding Your Entrepreneurial Spirit
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Email
fzapatero@marshall.usc.edu
Undergrad Institution
Comillas Pontifical University

Editor, Quarterly Journal of Finance

Less than three years ago, the Midwest Finance Association (oldest regional finance association in the US, with a very broad international base, despite their regional origin) approached me and asked me if I would be interested in serving as Editor of a new journal: They were trying to improve their visibility and standing in the research community, and they had decided to launch a journal. We would need to start from scratch, and I would have total freedom in deciding the structure and composition of the editorial board, as well as the editorial policy and objectives of the journal. However, they expected the journal to achieve a solid standing in the finance research community in just a few years. This offer woke up a “hidden” entrepreneurial spirit in me—a boring academic with a career based mostly on theoretical work—and I accepted. Of course there are already a fair number of academic journals in the field of financial economics—with some more coming into the market—, but there are some untapped opportunities that I thought the journal could benefit from:

  1. The overall research production in finance has grown substantially over the last few years, and I expect it to grow even further: Until very recently, only top schools in the US and a handful outside the US were producing innovative research in finance. The landscape is varying very fast: A large number of universities in Europe are quickly changing their promotion standards and are starting to require publications in international journals with peer reviews. In addition, as a result of the demand for business education in emerging economies, new business schools are getting established at a quick rate; most of the time they follow the model of the US business schools and evaluate their faculty using similar criteria to the US schools. In particular, they require publications in international journals. Of course more quantity is not a guarantee of quality, but the truth is that globalization has increased the competition also in academia, and many faculty members in schools all over the world have now an excellent training (in fact, many of them have been trained in the US or by mentors trained in the US) and are writing innovative papers with outstanding execution.
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  3. Given the large amount of good papers out there, the top finance journals have plenty to choose from without taking any “risk:” Controversial papers or papers whose topics or methodology deviate from mainstream finance are unlikely to get any sympathy from the established finance journals. In addition, I believe that finance has attained a level of maturity that calls for the exploration of new directions and reaching out to other related disciplines like psychology, sociology or law.  A new journal can publish papers whose methodology or conclusions might seem too risky to the editors of the established journals. In fact, I believe there is an opportunity to have an influence in the field by pushing into new directions and topics.

The previous are some of the ideas we pitched to potential publishers for the journal, after setting up an outstanding Editorial Board. We got an excellent response, and several publishers (some very large, well-known international publishers, some very well managed, small publishers) showed a strong interest in the project. We negotiated with a few of them, and at the end we were very happy to sign a contract with World Scientific. They actually offered us the best terms; nevertheless, regardless of the contract, we always felt they were the perfect fit for the journal: An international publisher, up-and-coming, with a solid reputation in the publishing world—we did our homework—and a good number of journals across disciplines, but without a single general finance journal—they have some finance journals but with specific content. They have the perfect size and our incentives appear to be perfectly aligned with theirs.

From then on I started soliciting papers. I identified some very interesting papers from high profile scholars and I offered them publication in the journal. I was very fortunate to get a positive response from a few of them, which made the rest of the process much easier. As a result of it, the first issue is about to come out (http://www.worldscinet.com/qjf/). We already have several additional interesting papers lined-up for the upcoming issues. In addition, unsolicited papers are starting to arrive. And in the next few weeks, the publisher and the Midwest Finance Association will start advertising the journal very aggressively.  

It has been a very enjoyable ride so far, and I cannot wait to see the journal “grow…”