Matt McCarten discovered while at Taradale Primary School that he quite liked solving puzzles and problems, so good old mathematics came quite easily. He continued through Taradale Intermediate and Taradale High School before entering the halls of Otago University. He is now walking the corridors of Harvard Business School in the Unites States as part of an extensive PhD programme and scholarship encompassing accountancy and finance, as well as shareholder litigation against business firms. Roger Moroney ran some figures by him.
1 Where did your thirst for learning accountancy and financing come from - was there something (or someone) which sparked it for you?
I started at University of Otago not really knowing what I wanted to do. A year or two into my undergraduate studies, I took a finance paper which I really enjoyed and after that I decided to pursue my major in finance. I've always been very strong mathematically and I enjoy problem solving, so finance is well suited to me.
2 What specific field are you aiming to settle into once all this "learning" is wrapped up - will it be back here in New Zealand or overseas?
I enjoy academic financial research so I'm keen to find a job in academia. One of the great things about being an academic is that you never stop learning. At the moment I don't know where I'll end up working. This trip might lead to the chance to work at a US university, which would be a fantastic opportunity, although I'd also be very keen to stay in New Zealand. Where I end up will depend quite a bit on the job opportunities that are available.
3 The "shareholder litigation" on firms angle - the US has a reputation for the pursuit of litigation so your time there will be extremely valuable?
All of my research has been conducted using US-based data so this trip to the US will be very insightful. During my trip I will have the opportunity to interact with other academics, notably Professor Paul Healy from Harvard University, who are conducting research in a similar field. The chance to obtain feedback on my work and learn from their experience will be invaluable for my future research.
4 The prospect of presenting your research at other US universities does not faze you - and is it a part of the whole PhD approach?
It is somewhat intimidating to present at these top-tier US universities, however I feel relatively comfortable since I've had quite a bit of experience presenting my own research in New Zealand and Australia. Presenting your work is a key component of academic life. There is a strong emphasis on attending and presenting at conferences as well as at seminars held at other universities. These types of presentations provide insight for the attendees as to what research is being undertaken by other academics. The presenters also benefit by receiving feedback and perhaps even a different perspective on their analysis.
5 This is a complex subject - has it been touched on before in New Zealand or are you effectively leading the way - which would make it a challenging learning curve?
In recent years there has been quite a bit of research into the impact securities class actions have on firms. Since class actions occur most frequently in the US, most research, including my work, has been US-focused. There are some databases with a substantial amount of information on every class action filed in the last 20 years, as such it was relatively easy to undertake my research. I don't have a legal background so it certainly did take a bit of time to gain an understanding of the intricacies of the litigation process. Although my research is focused on the US, it does provide insight into the usefulness of securities class actions for NZ legal and regulatory bodies.