Q&A: Hans Christensen, Associate Professor of Accounting, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
What is your area of study?
International accounting harmonisation, mandatory IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) adoption, transparency regulation in financial and non-financial markets.
Tell us about your time here in Manchester?
I completed my PhD at MBS in 2008. My study was essentially three papers rolled into one thesis around IFRS adoption and its particular impact across the EU. The first paper looked at how the standards affected the valuation of UK companies. What we found were that there were clear winners and losers, and that accounting standards did not have the same effect for all companies. What we generally found was that only those firms that perceived net benefits of IFRS adoption realised benefits. The finding may seem obvious, but is consistent with incentives mattering a lot for the outcome of accounting regulation. Even if governments mandate good accounting standards, it is unlikely to lead to capital market benefits if the firms that are forced to comply do not perceive any benefits of doing so. The firms that benefitted most from IFRS adoption were generally large, traded abroad, and did not rely much on bank financing.
What attracted you to study in Manchester?
I was particularly drawn by the fact that Manchester had excellent financial information databases across Europe. It is a definite differentiator that Manchester has compared to universities on the European continent, and also compared to Asian universities which, for the most part, don’t have anything like this. What was also important was that the knowledge to actually understand these databases was in Manchester, and that shouldn’t be underestimated.
How did your time at MBS benefit your career?
As well as becoming proficient in managing these data systems, I also built up some excellent industry contacts. From my PhD research one of my big personal selling points was that I could then understand the context of these regulatory issues outside of the US, and particularly across the EU. My work had particular appeal to US business schools because at the time the US was thinking about adopting some of these standards. After completing my PhD I came to Chicago armed with a lot of institutional knowledge about how these standards had worked in Europe.
What are you studying today?
I continue to look at regulation and the impact of regulatory disclosure. I started out by just looking at accounting standards, but now I have started looking at its impact on specific industries such as healthcare. I am still researching the European market too. A particular paper I am working on is the standardisation of regulations across Europe and whether that means accountants can easily move across from one country to another and work in different countries.