Pierre Fink, 2019-20 HOPE Center Fellow


Pierre Fink, a native of Germany, has been studying in the United States since 2012 and over that time has visited around twenty-five states.

“But I’ve never been to a state fair,” he says, “so I’m looking forward to going to the North Carolina State Fair next month.” After a pause, he asks, “What kind of food do they serve?”

Well, some things are better left experienced in the moment. In the meantime, Pierre is here studying the Fed and its perplexing decision to stop measuring certain kinds of money-like instruments.

“Over the past few decades all kinds of new forms of money have been created—repurchase agreements, commercial paper, negotiable certificates of deposit—and the Fed was left scrambling to find a way to measure those things,” Pierre explains.

Finally, around 2006, the Fed gave up—a decision that made it more difficult to understand and manage the crisis that began just a year later.

“There was all this movement in the markets for the kind of quasi-money that the Fed had stopped measuring. Essentially, there were bank runs in those markets. But without the right statistics in place, it was difficult to understand what was going on.”

The loss of confidence that ensued, Pierre says, was a major reason why the crisis was so severe.

Pierre’s current work stems from his dissertation, which he wrote at Columbia University. In it, he explored the emergence of money markets in the United States between the end of World War II and 1980, by which time all the major money markets we have today had been created.

His dissertation topic was a direct result of the crisis. In 2008, Pierre was an exchange student at Yale University, where he was enrolled in Robert Shiller’s behavioral finance class. In the class, he was asked to examine a new policy tool that the Fed had just created to deal with the crisis in the money market.

Macroeconomics has always been a part of Pierre’s milieu. He grew up near Frankfurt, the home of the European Central Bank.

“I heard people in the rural area in which I was raised talking about the bank, wondering just what it did all day. So I guess my interest in money started then.”

Quite by happy coincidence, Pierre’s library carrel is on the same floor that the library’s collection of German literature is on.

“I sometimes take a break by reading a little Goethe.”

Pierre will be at Duke until the end of April.