I am a practitioner academic, and lead a research programme at the University of Oxford.
Credit: Alice Chautard
Alex Money directs the Innovative Infrastructure Investment (in3) programme at the University of Oxford's Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. A former fund manager, he has over 20 years of practitioner experience in investment and industry. Alex's research interests include water, energy, infrastructure, investment, and sustainable development. He also teaches on Oxford's undergraduate, postgraduate and MBA programmes, and is the director of two early-stage technology companies. Alex holds a master's degree with distinction in water science, policy and management, and a doctorate in economic geography; both from the University of Oxford.
I am a relatively late arrival to the world of academia, having spent my twenties and early thirties working in finance: first as an emerging markets fund manager, and then in capital markets advisory. In the autumn of 2009, my wife and I relocated from London to Oxford, accompanied by our two young sons. At the time, the intention was to spend ten months in the university city while I completed a master's degree. Nine years later, here we still are.
I started my career as a graduate trainee in Citibank Global Asset Management, where I was assigned to the Latin America team. A few days after I joined, the Mexican government unexpectedly devalued the peso, triggering global capital flight and the 'tequila crisis' of 1994. As asset prices in the country collapsed, my boss determined that this was a unique buying opportunity and we "went long" Mexico, flying in the face of consensus opinion. History was to ultimately vindicate this decision, and I learned my first formative lesson about taking the long view.
After several years in fund management, armed with a bonus and plenty of hubris, I left the City in 2000 to establish a dotcom with what proved to be spectacularly poor foresight. As internet stocks crashed back to earth the bonus was soon gone - but so, I hope, was some of the hubris. On the plus side, the experience taught me a second lesson on the importance of timing.
Back to formal employment, I subsequently co-founded a capital markets advisory firm, which expanded to represent clients ranging from under £100m to over £100bn by market value. The job provided unique insight into Board level decision making in the run up to the 2008 global financial crisis. It also taught me a third lesson - that the relationship between risk and return is usually asymmetric.
I try to apply these lessons to my academic work. I'm particularly interested in identifying the knowledge gaps that exist between academia and industry, and attempting to bridge them. My work in corporate advisory during the financial crisis highlighted that too much risk is often taken on for little incremental return, and I believe that the converse asymmetry may also hold. For example, investment in water infrastructure or renewable technologies may yield outsize return, adjusted for risk. Consistently achieving these returns might principally be a question of getting the timing right, as well as taking an appropriately long view. Empiricising such hypotheses is a focus area of my work. My current activities and research interests are summarised in the blog and research pages. I also have an active teaching schedule, and am variously involved with enterprise.
I am generally very happy to provide comment on areas aligned to my research interests. Opportunities for self-publicity that I have enthusiastically embraced include speaking at conferences around the world, serving as a judge on various competitions, giving guest lectures, and providing interviews to the media. I am also writing a potentially somewhat heretical book, which has the working title Chasing the Sand: Some Ideas for Development. In my mind's eye, the book cover involves an hourglass and a heap of multi-coloured SDG icons disappearing down a vortex. A must-read, right? Please feel free to get in touch, using the form below.