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A Laboratory, a Department and a Master’s Programme: How are Finances, Intangibles and Sport Connected?

It is not unusual for faculty staff to combine several roles, such as a researcher and a teacher, but sometimes they bring even more to the table.The HSE Look is glad to present an interview with Professor Angel Barajas, who initially joined HSE’s campus in Perm as a Leading Research Fellow of the International Laboratory of Intangible-Driven Economy and recently became the Head of the Department of Finance at HSE St. Petersburg, as well as the supervisor of a Master’s programme

It is not unusual for faculty staff to combine several roles, such as a researcher and a teacher, but sometimes they bring even more to the table. The HSE Look is glad to present an interview with Professor Angel Barajas, who initially joined HSE’s campus in Perm as a Leading Research Fellow of the International Laboratory of Intangible-Driven Economy. Also, he is the Head of the Department of Finance at HSE St. Petersburg, as well as the supervisor of a Master’s programme there.

What are your major research interests? Does your work in Russia add an extra dimension to this research?

I generally work on topics related to finance, but to give an example of more specific studies, my PhD thesis was devoted to analyzing the financial side of football clubs. As our Laboratory works on the issue of intangibles, I am also interested in intellectual capital and in the sports industry in particular, as it is a sector highly intensive in intangibles. Of course, the geographical factor also plays a part in my research – from the very beginning it was very interesting for me to understand the specifics of Russian economy. I persuaded my colleagues that we should focus on Russian companies and their behaviour in regards to intangibles. Moreover, we plan to make it a comparative study with their European counterparts.

What are intangibles and why are they important to study in economics and finance?

The main feature of intangibles is that they are present but you cannot touch them. In the digital era, there are many things that we cannot touch but we still use them, or we experience them. In a company, for instance, we can find many intangibles – skills of employees, the experience of the board of directors, organizational structure, the relations the company maintains with its clients and other stakeholders, etc. From a financial point of view, it is interesting to understand how intangibles create value for shareholders. Regarding the sports industry, the main intangible assets are the skills of individual competitors and their coaches, how teams are built, how games are organized to provide more entertainment, etc.

 You’ve worked at HSE Perm for several years at the International Laboratory of Intangible-Driven Economy. What kind of research does the Lab do?

Our Laboratory won a grant from the Russian Science Foundation to study the role of intangibles in Russian companies. The idea was to understand how to make Russian firms more competitive in the ‘knowledge economy’. In addition to theoretical and methodological findings published in peer-reviewed journals, we also created a vast empirical database of Russian companies analyzing over 50 primary indicators of their intangibles, using European companies as a benchmark. As a practical application, we also created an information system called MIRC (Monitor of Intangibles in Russian Companies), which can effectively monitor companies based on open data. The MIRC analytical system allows us to screen studies, monitor indicators of competitiveness and investment attractiveness. We can also measure effectiveness in terms of how intellectual resources are used, as well as assess the effects of public policies.

We are currently developing two major lines of research. The first focuses on intangibles in Russian companies in relation to their global competitiveness. The second line is devoted to new digital skills applied at Russian companies and the issue of moving from analogue to digital technologies and bridging the skills gap.

You became the head of the Department of Finance at HSE St. Petersburg in 2017. What are the plans for the department’s development?

One of our goals is to help department staff improve their personal research in line with the general strategy of the School of Economics and Management, which, in turn, is geared towards obtaining international accreditation as a mark of quality, thereby allowing us to better attract talents globally. Naturally, this means that we place a lot of emphasis on presenting research at top conferences and publishing papers in internationally acclaimed peer-reviewed journals, and in order to support to our faculty in their efforts, we hold research seminars approximately every two weeks. At the moment, the major goal of these seminars is for the members of the department to present their research, so that they can receive feedback from peers and improve their work, as well as perhaps foster some collaboration. In addition to faculty members, we also invite students from PhD and Master’s programmes so that they can take part in research and discussions.

 You have plans to launch a new Master’s Programme in Management and Analytics in Business this September. Whom do you see as its prospective students?

 We want to attract students who have studied business or economics at HSE, but we are also interested in learners who have a more of a mathematical background, perhaps, in physics or engineering, who want to learn more about business and corporate management.

We are eager to take the advantage of the fact that Russian students in general have a good background in quantitative methods (e.g. mathematics, econometrics and statistics). Furthermore, when this background is augmented by knowledge and skills related to data-driven management, such graduates are more attractive for companies. In addition, we are going to invite faculty from other departments, as well as visiting scholars, to teach under this programme and supervise student theses.

We want to attract students globally as well; in fact, we already have set the target of having a good number of international students. But this is not the only way our students can get international experience, as we are participants in the international network Quantitative Techniques for Economics and Management (QTEM), which provides opportunities for student exchanges between its members.

Read more in The HSE Look March 2018 issue