Professor Raghavendra Rau Appointed Mercers’ School Memorial Professor of Business

Professor Raghavendra Rau

Gresham College, London’s oldest Higher Education Institution, and the Mercers’ Company are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Raghavendra Rau as the Mercers’ School Memorial Professor of Business. 

Rau is the Sir Evelyn de Rothschild Professor of Finance at Judge Business School, (University of Cambridge). He is a founder of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, arguably the world’s largest University research centre devoted to studying how technological change is disrupting the world of finance.

He has taught around the world, and also has industry experience as a former hedge fund manager.

He was also President of the European Finance Association in 2014 and has served as editor or on the editorial board of several finance journals. He has won several teaching and research awards and published on subjects ranging from bribery to behavioural finance, and corporate governance to corporate finance.

Professor Rau said: “I want to use this Professorship to help bridge the gap between how economists think about the world and how laypeople see the world. The disruption that’s going on in finance and business is something that we all need to understand, simply because it has the potential to upset our personal and professional lives.

"Is crypto worth holding as an investment? Can corporations truly harness big data to make efficient inferences about you? What are the risks of using AI to spot frauds before they happen? These are some of the questions I would like to address in my first year lecture series.” 

Dr Simon Thurley, Provost of Gresham College, said: “Technology is transforming the way finance works so it’s a brilliant time to have Raghavendra Rau come to Gresham to explain what is happening and how it affects us.” 

Dr Wendy Piatt, CEO of Gresham College, said: “Professor Rau is a superb communicator with an outstanding teaching record, and we are delighted to welcome him to Gresham College.” 


In 2022-3, Professor Rau will be lecturing about The Tech Revolution in Finance:

Technology is changing the way markets and organizations work. Especially after Covid, there has been a wholesale restructuring across many industries. Many people have had to learn new ways of working, and distrust in governments and business has become widespread. This series will cover the competition between intermediaries - like Goldman Sachs and new platforms like Amazon Finance which are connecting buyers and sellers directly; the growth of cryptocurrencies, and the use of blockchain, AI and big data in business. Finally, it will look at the risks these innovations have brought with them. 

Lecture 1. Bypassing Banks Using Tech Mon 3/10/22, 6pm 
Financial intermediaries, like banks, mutual funds and brokers, - who connect investors to firms (who need finance) have existed for thousands of years. Because they control a scarce resource, information, these intermediaries are expensive. Platforms,  like crowdfunding platforms, organised meeting places for investors to meet firms, offer an alternative. Today's technological revolution is all about the competition between centralized intermediaries and decentralized platforms. and discusses the technological innovations that are responsible for this competition: crypto, big data, and AI. 

Lecture 2. Trust and Cryptocurrencies Mon 4/11/22, 6pm
The crypto movement began as a reaction to the concentration of economic power in the traditional financial system (and associated financial crises). It involved the creation of a new type of financial recording system,  that did not depend on any one individual keeping records, did not allow falsification, and prevented fraud and double spending. Crypto is underpinned by public-private key encryption, hashing and mining and  allows a completely decentralised system to write enforceable contracts that cannot be altered once written. 

Lecture 3. DeFi, Crypto, and NFTs in Business Mon 23/1/23, 6pm
How is the decentralised finance world organised? This lecture discusses how cryptographic technology is applied in business. It discusses blockchains and their uses. It explains how smart contracts, open code that automatically executes contracts once certain conditions are fulfilled, are used. It will also look at  non-fungible tokens, a type of cryptographic asset on a blockchain with a unique identification code and metadata that distinguishes it from any other.  

Lecture 4. Big data in Business Mon 27/2/23, 6pm
Big data has really taken off over the past decade because of the presence of ubiquitous sensor technology everywhere. For example, we are all constantly monitored by our phones, smart doorbells, heating systems, televisions, watches and jewellery. These devices generate a constant flow of information about us. But this data is pretty much meaningless without context. This lecture talks about how data needs to be processed to make it useful to business. 

Lecture 5. AI in Business Mon 22/5/23 6pm
AI is another major technological innovation. AI needs data, or more precisely, big, organized data. Most data processing is about making it useful for automatic systems such as machine learning, deep learning, and other AI systems. But one big problem with AI systems is that they lack context. An AI system is a pattern recognition machine devoid of any understanding of how the world works. This lecture discusses how AI systems are used in business and their limitations. 

Lecture 6. The Risks of Technology in Business Mon 5/6/23, 6pm
What are the risks of using these technological innovations in business? There are risks associated with the crypto world, including custodial risk and economic exploits. There are also regulatory risks with competition from central banks issuing their own digital currencies, and risks associated with extrapolation from patterns detected in big data by AI  systems. Applying algorithms blindly can lead to miscarriages of justice, exploitation, and discrimination. So how should society mitigate these risks, and where do we go from here?