What drew you to apply for the VEP program?
My interest in research started in university, in Madrid. When I came to the World Bank in 1998, I worked in the financial sector in Latin America and the Caribbean region, and for a decade I was involved in operational work. I traveled extensively, going to many countries but always found time to do research. I wrote several papers on financial sector issues and two books on financial infrastructure based on these operational experiences.
Since I became a manager in 2009 it has been more challenging to find time for research. So when I saw the announcement about the VEP program, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reconnect with research activity.
What did you hope you would gain from participating?
I wanted get to know the people who work here better. I have known some DEC colleagues for quite a while, but there a number of new people, and I wanted to find out more about their research. At the end of the day, knowing individuals and being able to connect with them is important.
“At the end of the day, knowing individuals and
being able to connect with them is important.”
In terms of the research agenda, I knew quite a bit about research on core financial sector issues and some on financial inclusion, but I have been learning more about other areas. For example, I had an interesting discussion with Michael Lokshin about how DEC is using technology to provide automatic computations for analysis and reports. I was not aware of this. It is interesting because we have been doing something similar in our department with Finstats and CPIAstats. That is a way of having better tools to do our work. So I think there are good opportunities to collaborate in these areas between DEC and FPD.
I also wanted to share my views about what I’m doing in my research. I have limited time, but I’ve been working on a paper on financial regulatory reform and how this is evolving, and got good ideas during my visit to DEC.
What do you think about the research department so far?
Colleagues came with a lot of interest to share their projects and experience with me, and to hear about my operational experience. I have two main takeaways about the DEC group from this week. The research group has been very welcoming and open in sharing ideas. You have all made my week very pleasant. I felt part of the group. Not only with the people I had already known, but new people, too. Also, it’s very dynamic here, and there is a lot of interest in the operational needs of the Bank. You are interested in the real practical needs of Bank clients.
Mario Guadamillas and Maya Eden
Do you see any future collaboration beginning to develop?
I have been discussing with Asli Demirgüç-Kunt (Director of Research), Sole (Maria Soledad Martinez Peri, Manager of the Finance and Private Sector team), and the finance team at least four areas where we can collaborate more.
“We discussed the issues you’d need to think about
to learn whether the FSAPs the Bank does have
impact or not.”
First, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the financial crisis and we could collaborate (DEC and FPD) on identifying first what are the right questions, and later on to try to answer them. It is important to identify the right questions even if you do not have an immediate answer to them.
Secondly, it is difficult to assess impact in the area our group covers, financial regulation and supervision. We work to help countries avoid financial sector crises, or mitigate their impact. So it is a bit more difficult to have a measurable immediate result. But it is important for us to find ways to show the impact of our work. Other than avoiding crisis which takes sometimes 20-30% of GDP in one country, we need to identify how we can show the impact more on the positive side, not just on avoiding the negatives.
Mario Guadamillas and David McKenzie
Also, In the FSAP program that I manage, we have people on the operational side that contribute with very broad and in-depth experience. I think DEC staff can contribute to the FSAP process bringing innovative ideas to the table, as they have time to sit and think through the issues and bring approaches that operational people don’t have the time to develop.
Finally we can share experiences in the use of technology to help us with our work, as mentioned earlier.
What research products do you have in mind?
Even with the time constraints, I’ve been looking in detail into the issue of financial regulatory reform, and with other colleagues we are working on a paper, looking first from the conceptual side to revise in detail the new evolving literature on how to address these problems.
The predominant paradigm, the neoclassical model, has been used for many years, but in my view, it does not address well the real questions that we need to answer. Looking to the new global framework is also important.
We now have the G20 and financial stability board (FSB) and all the international bodies that are driving the regulatory agenda, in which the IMF and the WB are actively participating. Small developing countries need help finding a voice in the existing groups, so issues relevant for them are also considered in the international agenda.
In my opinion, we have a mission to bring the topics of interest to these countries to the table. The paper would be of interest to a broad audience and would appeal to readers involved in policy making.
What is important to you outside of work?
My family! My kids are at a nice age now—12, 11, and 9. We can share interests and enjoy them a lot before they depart for college; everybody tells you that it happens much quickly than you realize. Thus, I do a lot of family activities. My favorite one, that combines my family with my sport passion, is a yearly skiing trip with the family. Hopefully it will become a tradition that will continue for many years.