Points | Research profile Christine Laudenbach

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Making an impact

In her research and beyond, Christine Laudenbach aims to improve financial sophistication

For Christine Laudenbach, it is cooperation and teamwork which make her research at SAFE feel worthwhile – and provide impetus to keep it going. One example she cites are events like the panel on the gender wealth gap, where female speakers from central and private banks opened discussion on the topic to different disciplines. Indeed, her path thus far has taken her through various areas: “Originally, I wanted to study mathematics, but the school careers advisor didn’t think I’d be able to pass the university’s entrance exam and recommended a more vocational course. As it turned out, this motivated me to prove him wrong, as I would later go on to take a degree in banking!”

Before beginning her Ph.D. at the University of Mannheim in 2007, Laudenbach worked at a large German bank for a few years: “I enjoyed working there, but I felt that something was missing, and I realized I wouldn’t want to do this job forever. So, I thought that doing a Ph.D. could be right for me.” In Mannheim, her advisor led her to the area of Behavioral Finance – and she fit right in. “I still don’t see myself as a typical finance person,” she says: “In my research, I’m very interested in the decision-making process of individuals, and finance is just the context.”

Laudenbach’s strong interest in the gender wealth gap and gender equality in finance developed during her academic career: both topics are about why women, compared to men, still feel less confident in making sophisticated financial choices. “When you work in a very male-dominated area, which was the case for me at the bank, you are often the only woman in the room, and I thought that something had to be done to change this systematic imbalance.”

Financial sophistication is key to independence

When Laudenbach talks to friends or acquaintances about her job, she still comes up against reserves: “I don’t understand why many people think finance is such a boring topic. Financial freedom can give you freedom in many other aspects of life, and often, a basic understanding of financial matters is crucial to attaining this goal.” As such, Laudenbach’s research focuses primarily on improving women’s financial knowledge: “I want to change things. If I can help even one person to make more informed or better financial decisions, then I’ve made an impact.”

On recent projects, she has greatly enjoyed the structures at SAFE, where she took up a professorship for Household Finance in April 2022: “I like working in teams and different groups. The interaction and range of perspectives broaden our possibilities and allow us to go new ways.” It is no surprise that Christine Laudenbach’s research led to her being included in Capital Magazine’s “Top 40 under 40” in 2022: after all, her work has been published in internationally renowned academic journals such as the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics, and Management Science. Furthermore, in 2022, she received a five-year grant from the Leibniz Programme for Women Professors for her project on the gender wealth gap. “It is always nice to be recognized for your work. When I attended the award ceremony for the Capital Top 40 under 40, I didn’t know anyone beforehand, which was unusual; but I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet new people from various backgrounds. And that’s an experience everyone should have once in a while!”

Christine Laudenbach is Director of the Department Household Finance at SAFE and Professor of Finance at Goethe University Frankfurt.