When Henrik Cronqvist was studying for a doctorate in economics at the University of Chicago, he would watch noted two Nobel-prize winning economists—Eugene Fama and Richard Thaler—debate opposite sides of issues.
“The interesting thing with Chicago, which I personally loved, that economic environment, is that you can have two people on the opposite sides of the spectrum of most issues and yet they were still good friends and tennis buddies,” Cronqvist told the Business Journal.
That open-mindedness is what Cronqvist hopes to impart as the new dean of Chapman University’s George L. Argyros School of Business, a position he began on July 31.
“Henrik has an impeccable academic curriculum, is a very well-regarded scholar; he also has demonstrated throughout his career, the ability to engage successfully with the business community,” Chapman President Daniele Struppa told the Business Journal.
“We expect him to be the leader that will bring Chapman’s Argyros School of Business and Economics into the top 50 business schools in the country,” he added.
Cronqvist, who grew up outside the main cities of Sweden, was the first in his family to attend a university. His father was a manager at a manufacturing facility while his grandfathers worked as a lumber jack and a bus driver.
His younger brother also went to college and is now chief financial officer of a startup in Sweden.
“We broke ranks in terms of education,” Cronqvist said. “I was always interested in studying and I had some fantastic teachers. I always wanted to do business and economics.”
He says this experience will help him connect with students who are the first generation to attend college.
Cronqvist attended the Stockholm School of Economics where he and two other students wrote a thesis that won first place from a magazine that was Sweden’s version of Business Week. The thesis was on whether Swedish real estate companies could generate higher returns by diversifying their investment portfolio or concentrating on a specific industry.
“We found a premium was to specialize in one category versus a diversified asset class,” he said.
Cronqvist decribes himself as “very much a global guy. I’ve been to many countries around the world.”
In the 1990s, Sweden and other European countries lacked the academic rigor of U.S. universities. When he met other Swedes who had completed their doctorates in the U.S., he realized he wanted to come to this country. He applied to several schools, getting into the University of Chicago, “which was my dream school.”
When he arrived in 1999, he took courses from economic professors who won or were going to win Nobel Prizes, such as Fama for efficient markets proponent, and Gary Becker for extending microeconomics to human behavior.
“At the University of Chicago, you have the best of the best,” he said. “The University of Chicago was an intellectually awesome place.”
Thaler became Cronqvist’s Ph.D. adviser.
“He’s one of founding fathers of behavioral economics, which is thinking of economics from a broader lens,” Cronqvist said. “We wrote the paper together.”
That paper was about how Sweden had privatized its social security system, something the U.S. was considering during the George W. Bush administration.
Thaler wrote a book, “Nudge,” about behavioral economics.
“One of the chapters is devoted to research that I did,” Cronqvist said.
When Thaler won a Nobel Prize in 2017, Cronqvist went to the ceremony. He keeps a tuxedo tie from that ceremony on his shelf in his office at the Argyros School.
Cronqvist developed a doctoral thesis on the role of advertising in the financial industry.
“Although advertising was not particularly informative for the investors, it still led them into investing in selecting funds that were advertising a lot,” he discovered.
After he graduated, Cronqvist could have returned to Sweden. Instead, he married an American and his first stop was The Ohio State University, which he noted has a highly rated department of finance.
Next was Claremont McKenna College in 2008 where he held the McMahon Family Endowed Chair in Corporate Finance. That was followed by three years in Shanghai at the China Europe International Business School where he was the Zhongkun Group Endowed Chair.
“I learned a lot about Asian economies and cultures,” he said.
In 2015, Cronqvist went to the University of Miami, serving in several positions such as director of Ph.D. programs before rising to vice dean of the business school.
Over the years, Cronqvist’s work has appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed publications like Management Science and Journal of Financial Economics. He himself has also conducted peer reviews.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always been interested in finance plus, finance and something else.”
His work has received coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and the Financial Times, among other publications. He has delivered courses on topics spanning from venture capital and corporate finance to security analyses and valuation.
The Search Firm
A search firm reached out to him a year ago about Chapman, whose prior business school dean Tom Turk has returned to a teaching position at the school (see story, this page).
“I’m very selective,” he said. “I’d only want to go to a place where I could have some great impact on the school and it would be in an interesting community.”
Chapman’s School of Business has almost 2,000 students and its MBA program has between 200 to 250 students.
During his first two months, he’s been busy meeting students, and has set up a desk on the first floor to meet the school’s students when they were between classes.
Chapman is known for keeping its class size below 25 students. At the start of the pandemic, Chapman was forced to shift to online courses for the remainder of that semester.
Cronqvist won’t advocate for online learning for undergraduates, saying they benefit from close interactions with their professors.
“When you have a campus as beautiful as this, for our undergraduate students, given where they are in their life, they should be here. They should be on campus. There’s no point in online education for them.”
For graduate students, he’s open to a hybrid system as he knows many students have full-time jobs and the commute to classes may take its toll.
“We are very much monitoring all the trends. At the end of the day, we want to provide the best experience for the students.”
He’s concentrating on efforts to help students get high-paying jobs when they graduate. He’s been impressed by the school’s real estate program and wants to dive deeper into analytics.
Cronqvist was attracted to the school’s momentum, noting that U.S. News and World Report ranked its full-time MBA program No. 72 this year, up from No. 98 five years ago.
He believes the school’s rankings can continue to rise with more outreach to other schools and more publicity about its accomplishments, such as its economic forecasts that are well received by the Orange County business community.
“We’re very well-known locally. We’re decently known regionally. Nationally or internationally, we’re not very well known.
“If we can climb into the top 50, that would be amazing.”
Turk Returns to Teaching
Tom Turk is proud that during his five-year term as dean of Chapman University’s business school, its graduate program rose from 98th to 72nd on U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking.
“We’ve risen in the rankings, strengthened the faculty, transformed our entrepreneurship programs, successfully launched a new master’s in real estate and expanded our impact on the academic and business community,” Turk told the Business Journal.
He noted the faculty grew 50% during his tenure, including adding several nationally known scholars. Turk also praised senior Associate Dean Candace Ybarra for being instrumental in the school’s transformation.
He’s most proud of the opportunities given to students to achieve their career goals.
Turk is returning to teaching management and strategy classes, stepping aside for new Dean Henrik Cronqvist.
“Henrik is a nationally recognized finance scholar—an area we’ve been building on in recent years,” Turk said. “He brings great energy and a wonderful interpersonal style to the role. I think he’s a perfect choice to take us to the next level of national prominence.”
—Peter J. Brennan