Centre for Finance and Development
09 October 2019

Professor Nathan Sussman Takes Over as Director of the Centre for Finance and Development

The intersection of the topics of finance and development lie at the heart of the Centre for Finance and Development, created in 2011 at the initiative of Ivan Pictet and in partnership with his foundation, the Fondation Pictet pour le développement, which has funded three chairs since then. 

Under the leadership of Professors Jean-Louis Arcand and Ugo Panizza, the Centre has established itself as a global thinking hub by offering teaching that enables students to understand better the relationship between finance and development, developing fundamental and applied research, and providing expertise to international actors. It has also become a highly visible exchange platform through the organisation of international conferences that gather public and private sector partners. Nathan Sussman, Professor of International Economics, has taken over as director, building upon the work of his predecessors.

You joined the Institute in September. What led you to accept this position?

In the spring semester of 2018, I visited the Graduate Institute while on sabbatical from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I was struck by the collegial atmosphere in the International Economics Department, and by our shared interests. I enjoyed the opportunity to teach graduate students, whom I found very involved, motivated, mature and with lots of great research ideas. I also had the chance to participate in various research seminars and events hosted by the Graduate Institute’s research centres.

In addition, graduate students and faculty in the International History Department interested in economic history made this offer very appealing. Most importantly, this position provides me the opportunity to combine my research and policymaking experiences with international policy-related issues at an institution that promotes cooperation between academia and international organisations. I felt that this was an opportunity I could not miss.  

Could you please elaborate on the importance of finance and development and what your main objectives are for the Centre?

Finance and the financial system are crucial for development and economic growth. Any process of development, national or personal, relies on investment and access to finance. Wealth is distributed unequally, both within and between societies. Therefore, the ability to mobilise resources to more impoverished individuals and communities to generate inclusive growth relies on the financial system.

The resolution of these challenges requires the cooperation of academics from multidisciplinary backgrounds, policymakers from national and international organisations, and practitioners. The Graduate Institute in Geneva is well-placed to take a leadership position in the process of financial development as a means for inclusive growth. The academic expertise that the Institute provides – in essence, all its academic departments – complement various aspects related to resolving these issues.

I find directing the Centre both a challenge and a great opportunity. I propose extending the Centre’s activities to include leading in providing solutions that employ financial tools aimed at promoting inclusive growth. With the support of the Pictet Foundation, I envision inaugurating a “financial development lab” to provide academics, practitioners, policymakers and graduate students with a place to formulate and experiment with financial tools in order to enhance development with greater equality.

From 2011 to 2017, you directed the Research Department at the Bank of Israel. What did you gain from that experience?

As an academic, the position of Director of the Research Department at the Bank of Israel allowed me to promote policy-relevant research. I found it highly rewarding to harness academic creativity and rigour to elucidate vital national economic issues. It also allowed me to be involved and contribute to critical economic reforms.

In many cases, I led teams composed of various stakeholders and I gained valuable experience in consensus building. As a voting member of the Monetary Policy Committee, I had the opportunity to participate in decision-making at the highest level. I also gained substantial experience in communicating our decisions and policies – a skill that is crucial in today’s media-oriented society.

Finally, my duties involved significant experience in interacting at a global level with peers in central banks and international organisations.

Read "A Portrait of Nathan Sussman, Economist and Historian". 

Keywords: nathan sussman, international economics, centre for finance and development