Get to Know CMC’s New Massoud Chair of Accounting: Professor Ananda Ganguly

Professor Ananda Ganguly is the Morcos Massoud Associate Professor of Accounting and George R. Roberts Fellow in the Robert Day School of Economics and Finance. On November 1, Professor Ananda Ganguly was ceremonially installed at the Athenaeum as the inaugural holder of the chaired professorship, instituted in honor of Professor Marc Massoud.

In Professor Ganguly’s Ath talk entitled “How an Accountant, Or Even You, Might Make Business Decisions: Some Evidence from the Laboratory,” he shared fascinating data about behavioral economics, focusing on laboratory experimental research, including his own, on how economic decision makers including investors, auditors and managers might use information while making judgments and reaching decisions.

He is the co-author of Assurer Reputation for Competence in a Multi-Service Context (2007) and The Riskiness of Large Audit Firm Client Portfolios and Changes in Audit Liability Regimes: Evidence from the U.S. Audit Market (2004).

In this fun Q&A, get to know a bit more about Professor Ganguly and what makes accountants tick:

Q: How do you feel about your recent appointment as the Massoud Chair?
A: A bit like Charlie Brown on being handed a football by Lucy.

Q: When you were in college, was there something that tipped you off that you’d become a professor? Anything that made you love accounting in particular?
A: Well, I used to wear thick glasses, and was generally absent-minded. That, and a general distaste for bureaucrats and bosses, which kept me away from the corporate world. Oh, about accounting. Actually, I don’t love accounting. But I do love logic, facts, fairness, reliability, honesty, transparency and truth-telling — all hallmarks of the accounting profession — and since accountants traditionally exhibit none of these, I was of course inexorably drawn towards the profession.

Q: Thus far, what do you consider your greatest achievement?
A: Climbing Lembert Dome (9,450 feet) in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite last year. All right, all right, that’s not such a big deal for those who’ve done Half Dome, but we’re working on that.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do to relax in Claremont?
A: Working on our backyard, playing with anything that has lots of buttons and blinking lights, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Somerset Maugham, Bach, Raga Bhairavi, The Beatles, Dave Brubeck, Satchmo, Letterman, Jon Stewart. Oh, I believe you asked for one favorite thing to do… that would be the buttons and blinking lights. That’s where most of the intensity is concentrated; the rest are mere past times.

Q: In terms of extracurricular activities, what do you love to do in your spare time?
A: My wife and I are avid hikers and photographers, and we often — though not always — combine the two interests together. See, for example, the 2010 Yosemite trip I mentioned earlier at http://www.spotadventures.com/user/profile/?user_id=59792 . Closer to home, the Mishe Mokwa Loop and Backbone Trail by Circle X Ranch in the Santa Monica mountains are favorite haunts.

Q: In your recent lecture at the Ath, you explained how people make choices do you think accounting majors are better at predicting behavior than non-accounting students?
A: Of course not. Contrary to popular belief, our econ-accounting majors are actually human. Well, almost. Quite so nearly that they exhibit all human strengths and weaknesses. But what we hopefully teach accounting majors to do particularly well is to be aware of these strengths and limitations. The rigor of procedure is a good counterweight to supposedly intuitive thinking. Or, as Daniel Kahneman might say, accounting depends to a high degree on System Two thinking, thereby protecting us to some degree from many of the traps inherent in System One thinking. [You could look at the video of his November 3 talk at the Athenaeum, or look here http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/book-review-thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-10272011.html]

Q: How do you think economics and behavior are most related?
A: Well, economics is about human behavior and always was supposed to be. So when people call me a Behavioral Economist or a Behavioral Accountant or whatever, I usually cringe a little, although I don’t really have a better label for the research I do. But all economists are really looking at human behavior, or should be. What my particular band of brothers (and sisters) is trying to do is bring back the focus on that “descriptive” part of economics which models how individual humans actually do act, and not confuse it with the “prescriptive” part which analyzes how a rational economic agent should act. If the markets are efficient, there should generally be no difference between the two. We examine specific situations in which individual differences are likely, and also those circumstances in which these differences can be corrected by the market versus reflected in aggregate market outcomes.

Q: What’s the number one trait you look for in students that indicates to you that they may be a very successful economist or accountant in the future?
A: A logical or analytical mind; the willingness to learn others’ points of view; the objectivity to allow the facts to lead conclusions and admit that one’s favorite ideas or beliefs may in fact be incorrect. In short, thoroughly anal-retentive, but thoughtful people.

Q: Now that you’re the Massoud Chair, what is next for you? World domination? Going to Disneyland?
A: I’d leave World Domination to those who are certain that they’re right. Me, I’m always unsure. On the other hand, going to Disneyland entails “finding one’s inner child” which pop psychology tells me is a very difficult endeavor. How about just continuing to be myself? That’s hard as well, but they tell me it’s like riding a bike: once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty straightforward, being oneself. But I wouldn’t know: I’m still trying to master the bike.

Q: You made a pretty funny video with John Faranda and the Communications staff. What was your favorite part of making that video?
A: Was it funny? I thought it pretty much stated facts, as far as I can remember. I enjoyed the part where the kids thought up novel ways to insult me which were not in the script. Quite extemporaneously.

To check out the video that Professor Ganguly made with the Communications staff, click below.Video: “Massoud’s Shoes”