Hitting the Heights in Economics

Economist Professor Richard Brealey made the most of his opportunities and has consequently enjoyed a glittering career.

"Some people have a clear goal in life; others go where the wind takes them. I fall in the latter camp," he explains. It is an approach that has served him well: he is one of the most respected academics in the field of financial economics and has worked as a special adviser to the Governor of the Bank of England.

Professor Brealey (OE 1946 – 1954), who is known as Dick, went to Exeter College, Oxford. "On leaving college I joined the investment department of a Canadian insurance company, partly because they offered immediate responsibilities and partly because they promised me a year working in Canada. Visiting companies as an investment analyst and later managing the UK equity portfolio was great fun, but towards the end of my time there I became interested in some of the exciting new theories about portfolio management."

To pursue this interest and try to apply these theories, Dick got a job in the United States. "My three years in the States involved getting to know many of the academics working in the area and, when I got an offer from the newly established London Business School (LBS) to join their finance faculty, I became an academic myself." Apart from his secondment as a special adviser to the Governor of the Bank of England, he has stayed at LBS ever since. He believes he has been lucky throughout his adult life: "I was lucky to join LBS during the golden age of financial economics. I was lucky to help build a classy finance faculty and to team up with a friend from MIT to write a textbook that 30 years later is still the most widely used finance text [Principles of Corporate Finance, with S C Myers and F Allen, 10th ed, 2010]. During my time at LBS I have had plenty of opportunities to travel, and to consult and provide expert testimony in many countries. And outside work I have been fortunate enough to enjoy rowing, climbing, skiing and riding my horse."

Now Emeritus Professor of Finance at LBS, he holds positions including: Director of the Swiss Helvetia Fund and deputy chairman of the Balancing and Settlement Code Panel; Associate Editor, Journal of Applied Corporate Finance; Advisory Editor, Economic Notes and member of the Advisory Board of International Finance. His career has included visiting appointments at the University of California (Berkeley), University of British Columbia, University of Hawaii and Australian Graduate School of Management.

"My wife, who would probably once have been horrified at the thought of marrying a professor, is now reconciled and grateful that, although I may be forgetful, at least I do not have a wispy beard," he concludes.