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Do you want fries with that?

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

With different professors for each course you might expect we will walk out of Sasin in 2 years not remembering a single one of them. But every now and then there is a professor making an impression, either positive or negative, making it hard to forget him or her. Professor Larry Gorman seems like one of those people we might not forget soon, and not just because he needed almost 45 minutes to introduce himself during the first class, or because he had a realistic view on teaching where he pointed out we did not have to come to class if we did not want to, since he would get paid anyways, but it would save us time since we would not have to figure things out on our own.

Professor Larry Gorman teaching finance at Sasin

The focus of his classes is to build some intuition in order to understand what is going on in certain situations instead of just being able to plug the correct numbers in the correct formula; something a monkey can do also after enough training. Most formulas and concepts were explained based on stories making it easier to remember, but unfortunately not always making it easier to grasp. Luckily I have a background in finance and it was easy to understand what was going on, but I can image that some examples explaining some simpler concepts only made things harder to understand for people who are dipping their toes in the tricky waters of finance for the first time.

For sale: “Principles of Corporate Finance” (ISBN 978-1-259-00951-8). Never been used or opened (maybe that explains the disappointing grades I got for this course).

While the classes focused on intuition and the big picture, the midterm and final exam focused on the exact opposite; an eye for detail was needed to come to the correct answers.  In only 3 questions all discussed subjects were pulled together making it hard not to forget any of the necessary steps or not to misread a small detail. And with only 3 questions one small mistake could cost you dearly, as I found out when the grades for the midterm were released.

Years of experience in the financial sector, plus a BSc and a MSc in Financial Economics, plus passing 3 levels of CFA, plus being FRM designated and a CAIA charterholder is not enough to score above average for the midterm of Larry Gorman.

Besides normal classes from 10:30AM till noon there was also a practicum each Wednesday where the focus was on practicing possible exam questions and putting what was taught in practice. Since we were still sitting in the standard lecture room it was hard to have decent discussions with fellow students, the same issue as mentioned before with Kathy’s course, resulting in some people finishing a question in 5 minutes after which they had to wait 30 minutes before the answers and a new question were given, while others could not finish the question in the allotted time and did not learn as much as was possible. A practicum like this would make much more sense when seated in small groups at tables so we could cooperate on answering and understanding the questions, or when the questions were given in advance so we could try to figure them out at home and during the practicum the answers were given and discussed.

If you know this formula, used to calculate an annuity, as “the big ugly” you have probably been in one of Larry’s courses.

What made the classes taught by professor Larry Gorman most memorable though were his occasional “non-financial lectures” which could go one of two ways: scolding or inspiring. At times he got annoyed, for good reason, when he asked a simple question and the whole class, of 70+ people, was just sitting there hoping for someone else to answer. His already famous reaction to that situation was that we better learn quickly how to speak up or we should start practicing the sentence “do you want fries with that?” for our next job. This is something that also surprised me before; how can you become a business leader when you already have trouble speaking up in front of a relatively small group of classmates? The other non-financial lectures were more inspiring lectures where he gave us some advice on how to approach the rest of our lives. Think for example about reading books regularly about various subjects and keep asking questions about everything that happens around you. At times these talks started to sound more like a “sausage-measuring” competition though where he proudly mentioned how much he earns per hour, how many boats he has, and how well he has done creating alpha while trading stocks (the last time two finance professors, both of them “Nobel prize winners”, were so confident about creating alpha they almost melted the complete financial system down when their hedge fund went under).

If you are standing on the top of the Sasin building, together with the lawyer of your ex-wife, and he accidently slips and falls of the building… how long will it take for the world to become a better place? The answer is “about 2 seconds”.

Just a few more weeks before the results of the final exam, and the final grade for this course, will come out. Till that time we cannot sit still since Q2.1 will start with a total of 3 courses.