NCCU Professor Robin K. Chou’s Insatiable Quest for Knowledge Pushes Him to the Top of Financial Research

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Professor Robin K. Chou of finance and management focuses on market microstructures and behavioral finance. (Source: Robin K. Chou)

"I think it's useless for people to rely on luck. The most important thing is to keep working hard. People who work hard make their own luck," said Professor Robin K. Chou of finance and management at National Chengchi University. He credited his own professional success, not to luck or genius but to persistence and perseverance.

Professor Chou's research centers on market microstructures and behavioral finance, and his most recent work has appeared in the top-rated Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis. This research and his other scholarly achievements place him in the top 1 percent of financial scholars in Taiwan, and his recognition with the 2020 Academic Research Award is well-deserved.

Professor Chou explained that this recent journal article returns to basic economic theory and explores a long-debated topic, namely the substitution and complementarity between spot prices and futures. His research can be found on a dataset released in 2005 by the US Securities and Exchange Commission 2005. Chou noted that this data was "very clean" and the data period did not feature any major economic events, making it ideal for a control group.

Researching controversial issues has an inherent risk of being refuted, but this is part of the attraction for Chou. "Argument is an inherent part of good social science work," he said. "That's what makes it interesting. This paper is definitely not the last word on the subject of the substitution of complementariness of spot prices and futures."

Achieving scholarly recognition is very difficult, and Chou admits he faced difficulty in finding the needed research materials and in organizing the data. Despite his passion and curiosity for the work, he admits that "Research can be very boring," and the submission and review process can be arduous and tedious. "It's normal for an article to be rejected five, six, or seven times. In fact, these rejections are the most memorable part of the process, rather than the eventual publication."

Persisting in the face of such setbacks requires one to stay in touch with his or her passion for knowledge and to set achievable goals that lead you forward on the path to research success. "Keep interested in yourself and your work," he said. "Maintain your curiosity to deeply understand the phenomenon before you." Laughing, he said that with the eventual publication of his article, the frustrations leading up to it vanished like smoke in the wind, leaving only a sense of accomplishment. "It was like watching a child grow and thrive."

"Research itself is a process of self-growth," he said, emphasizing that the reward for good research is the work itself, not any fame or fortune. Through the process of producing this most recent paper, Chou said that he'd gained a deep understanding of the US securities exchange market and regulations. "Insight into different local markets has a spillover effect in that it broadens your perspective through considering many different points of view."

Chou expressed his deep gratitude to the NCCU for making the conditions possible for him to produce this award-winning research. The university environment is conducive to the free exchange of ideas, even when they may conflict. "Here, we're surrounded by highly intelligent and motivated people, which allows for delightful and rewarding discussions."

"NCCU attracts the very best faculty and students, so you have to work hard to keep up," he said. One of the paper's co-authors was Chou's doctoral student Chen Yi-wen, of whom he said, "I couldn't have produced this paper without his help. We supported each other and worked very hard."

Chou also expressed his gratitude for the guidance he received from senior researchers and faculty earlier in his career. "They taught me everything, from how to submit articles, how to respond to reviewers, and even good work habits." This assistance proved crucial when he first returned from completing his doctorate abroad – despite his research ability and ideas, he didn't know how to get started in the publication process.

Therefore, when he served as assistant academic dean of the department, he vigorously promoted an "academic research tutor system" to ensure that young faculty received the guidance and assistance that had made such a difference for his own career. "Most of the time, we struggle alone, and we take many wrong turns. By the time we get back on track, a lot of critical time and opportunities have passed."

According to Chou, winning a research prize like this requires constant effort and good fortune. "Of course I'm very happy with the outcome of all this effort," he said. "I've won the Research Excellence Award for eight consecutive years, and now I have another acknowledgement of my hard work." But, for Chou, this is hardly the time to rest on his laurels, and he is already hard at work on future publications.

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