Business and Management Archive
B&M Welcomes Dr. Hochreiter and His Passion for Political Science & Quantitative Methods
The business and management department welcomed Dr. Ronald Hochreiter, Associate Professor of Finance, to Webster Vienna in early March. Dr. Hochreiter completed his Habilitation in Business Administration at the Vienna University of Economics & Business five years ago, but earned his PhD in Business Informatics from the University of Vienna in 2005. Dr. Hochreiter has written extensively on a variety of research topics related to his studies, from finance to data mining, and over the years has taught courses on data analytics, quantitative and qualitative methods, hedge funds, and management.
We sat down with Dr. Hochreiter recently to welcome him to Webster and to discuss his background in academia, his recent research pursuits, and his plans for the future at Webster.
WVPU: First and foremost, welcome to Webster! We’re really excited that you’re here. You’ve been involved in academia for almost your entire career. Did you grow up wanting to be a professor and professional researcher? If not, how did it happen?
Dr. Hochreiter: I am really happy to join Webster and am looking forward to continuing research and teaching in the fields of algorithmic/computational/quantitative finance, data science and decision science here. Interestingly, when I was younger, I actually never planned a career in academia but rather wanted to work for the European Union as I love the concept of a unified Europe. I studied political science in addition to business informatics and my initial plan was to complete my MA in political science and do my PhD in this area right after completing my MSc in business informatics; however, just a few days before I actually graduated my BI master’s thesis advisor offered me a PhD position at the Department of Statistics.
Initially, I intended to decline the offer, but following a week of careful consideration I accepted. During this period of reflection I realized that the field of operations research and computational management science, i.e. the quantification of decision management under uncertainty, is applicable to many different areas -including political decision taking. My research is biased by this in the direction of hands-on approaches to difficult problems i.e. I love translating complex quantitative methods for a variety of applications.
WVPU: You’ve taught dozens of courses over the years on topics relating to your expertise and academic interests. Is there any one course which stands out as especially near and dear to your heart? Which course at Webster are you most looking forward to teaching?
Dr. Hochreiter: The course I really love is currently entitled “Quantitative Methods in Finance” where I basically teach how to become a Quant in the financial industry – both in hedge funds as well as investment banks. It is a very hands-on lecture that has been developed by me since 2006.
I am also in the process of creating a textbook out of this content which should be ready within the next six to nine months. I am definitely looking forward to integrating many parts of this lecture in two of my upcoming courses at Webster, i.e. "FINC 6290 Mergers & Acquisitions" as well as "FINC 5830 Institutions and Financial Markets".
WVPU: Research has been a salient component to your career. To the extent that you can share it with us, which topics or projects are currently taking up your time? What can we expect to see from you in the near future?
Dr. Hochreiter: I will basically streamline my research to applying machine learning and artificial intelligence methods to various applications in business, finance and economics. It is not easy to get these methods right but if you do get them right you can create a plethora of new insights into various problems.
It is also important to apply these methods with a certain deep knowledge of the respective area under consideration, which in my view was all too often neglected over the last few years when the main idea seemed to be that artificial intelligence would solve all our problems without having to think about the problem area. Rather, quite the opposite is true – if you want to get a useful solution computed by AI methods you really need to understand the problem in detail. This is also the case why so many companies have been frustrated by AI solutions because those simply do not solve problems out of the box.
WVPU: in 2015 you co-authored a paper on improving election night forecasts. What was your contribution to that paper and, perhaps more importantly, have any news networks called you and your co-author to ask for help?
Dr. Hochreiter: This was the pet project of me and my research assistant at WU Vienna, Christoph Waldhauser, who did his MA in Political Science but is one of the best Data Scientists in Austria I know. Unfortunately, we never had enough time to focus on this branch of research besides creating this paper. However, the methods published in the paper have actually been used to improve certain election night forecasts in Austria, but due to the new legislation which prohibits the publication of partial results during the Election Day the methods are not applicable at the moment.
I am currently using the example of Fake News generation by Cambridge Analytica (i.e. the Facebook scandal) to show how psychometric data can and should be integrated into contemporary AI methods to control voting decisions of humans – of course basically to come up with useful counteractions against Fake News. So, my interest in applying complex algorithms to political problems has not lead to new publications yet, but is still alive.
WVPU: What advice do you have to young researchers, particularly in the field of finance?
Dr. Hochreiter: It depends on whether you are interested in pure finance or in my personally preferred field of algorithmic finance. If you are into pure finance, the best strategy is to build a personal network and visit all the important finance conferences which are mainly organized in the US. If you are into algorithmic and quantitative finance, you’ll need to get your hands dirty by applying various methods to different types of data sets and accomplish to fulfill the painstakingly tedious task to find alpha in the market as opposed to doing beautiful mathematical finance proofs. There’s plenty of opportunity for different kinds of research.
The business and management department’s head Dr. Nikolaos Antonakakis has been invited to guest edit a special issue of the journal Sustainability, due out later this year. We sat down with Dr. Antonakakis to discuss the special issue’s theme: the relationship between energy, consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic growth.
WVPU: Please tell us a little bit more about the special issue you will be editing.
Dr. Antonakakis: The increasing threat of global warming and climate change has been a major, worldwide, ongoing concern for more than two decades. Global warming is being caused by the ever-increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG), as well as other anthropogenic activities. Key factors that lead to increased GHG emissions are, among others, economic activity and energy usage. This special issue of Sustainability will gather articles which focus on these dynamic relationships.
WVPU: As an econometrician, how do you see the intersection of energy consumption and economic growth?
Dr. Antonakakis: The link among energy consumption, emissions, and economic growth has received considerable attention over the years from both policy makers and researchers, as the achievement of both environmental sustainability and sustainable development have gradually become major global concerns. The interest in this field has been further escalated due to the rather intricate character of this particular nexus, both from a theoretical and an empirical perspective. I am particularly interested in how econometric techniques could perhaps reveal causalities and relationships which, to the naked eye, so to speak, are less self-evident.
WVPU: Does existing literature guide research in any particular direction?
Dr. Antonakakis: The results of the existing literature are still contested, potentially due to differences in time-periods and country-data used by researchers, varying econometric approaches, the omitted variable bias, and many other reasons. In an ideal world, this special issue’s articles could help us see where arguments coalesce and how they diverge.
WVPU: What has your own research suggested with regard to the relationships between and among energy, consumption, emissions, and growth?
Dr. Antonakakis: According to the findings of a recent co-authored study of mine entitled “Energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and economic growth: An ethical dilemma” published in the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews journal, high levels of economic growth in the long run can only be achieved by the consumption of the most pollutant energy resources, including oil, coal and gas. Most surprisingly, renewable energy sources appear to have no influence on economic growth in the long-run. This would seem to suggest that meeting both objectives - of sustainable economic growth and sustainable environmental quality – may not be possible (at least simultaneously).
WVPU: Can researchers still submit their manuscripts, should they happen to come across this article?
Dr. Antonakakis: Absolutely! The deadline for manuscript submissions is on May 31, 2019. They can read about the special issue and submit their manuscript online. I’m looking forward to reading them.
In November the business and management department’s own Dr. Maria-Teresa Punzi traveled to Brussels to give an invited talk at the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN) of the European Commission. Dr. Plamen Nikolov invited her to give the talk and present one of her recent research papers.
WVPU: Was it hard to decide which facets of your research you would present at the European Commission?
Dr. Punzi: Initially, I wanted to present about household heterogeneity, which is a recurrent theme in my research, but at the last moment I decided to change course and present my work on climate change policy and environmental risk. I think that I was smart to trust my instincts, as those present at the European Commission seemed to enjoy the topic.
WVPU: Please tell us a little bit more about your presentation.
Dr. Punzi: To be more specific, I explained the dynamics of business cycle fluctuation by using a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model which incorporates climate change policy. This environmental policy is introduced in the model by assuming that the government limits the use of polluting inputs during the production process. This phenomenon is usually known as cap-and-trade. My model’s simulation used data from the United States.
The results suggest that this type of climate change policy (cap-and-trade) reduces the positive effect that a technology shock would have in the economy. Moreover, some environmental policies could lead to defaults as cap-and-trade negatively affects the firms’ profitability and liquidity, decreasing the chance to repay back the loans acquired to finance the new production.
WVPU: Was that all you presented in your talk?
Dr. Punzi: I also presented the results of a two-sectors model case, i.e. a green sector and a brown sector. The two sectors differ in terms of their pollution inputs: the green sector uses clean and renewable energy, while the brown sector use fossil fuel energy. The climate change policy applied only to brown firms, and the model predicts that default rates can increase for both sectors. Indeed, the environmental policy spill over to the green sector through the banking system. Banks charge higher lending rates to all firms in order to avoid balance sheet distress, and higher lending rates increase the probability of default.
WVPU: Wow. That’s fascinating. What was your takeaway from a policy point of view?
Dr. Punzi: I discussed the role of monetary and macro-prudential policies. I suggested that there should be a more active role from policy makers and financial regulators in order to take into account the environmental risk to which the economy is exposed during the transition period of the implementation of climate change policies.
Many economists attended my talk, even researchers working at the Climate Change Division. These people are not focusing on business and financial cycle, but they understood the problem in terms of banking default and financial stability.
WVPU: Some may say that your research suggests cap and trade or other environmental policies could have short term negative effects on the banking industry or the economy as a whole. How do you respond to that?
Dr. Punzi: Overall, my research is not meant to discourage policy makers from implementing effective climate change policy. We all want clean air, less pollution and a better environment, but in the transition period the economy need better policies to avoid financial instability. Probably central banks could play a better role.
A recent collaboration between the business and management department’s own Dr. Maria Madlberger and one of our graduate students, Mauro Ortiz Bustamante, culminated in a conference publication. Mr. Ortiz Bustamante’s thesis on video advertising, “Commenting, Liking, Sharing: Drivers of Intention to Provide User Response to Video Advertisements in Social Media”, was supervised by Dr. Madlberger and featured at the International Association for Development of the Information Society’s 17th International Conference on WWW/Internet in Budapest. We sat down with Dr. Madlberger to discuss her academic pursuits in marketing, her collaboration with Mr. Ortiz Bustamante, and the strong interest with which students approach her about her research.
WVPU: Could you please tell us about your recent article publication on video marketing?
The Internet offers an increasing variety of communication med
iums which go far beyond traditional mass communication. In recent years, social media in particular has transformed communication among individuals, but also between companies and their target audiences. The numerous ways by which Internet users can now create user-generated content and social user responses, such as liking, sharing, commenting, or uploading content has led to a paradigm shift in digital marketing. Whereas classical communication is restricted to companies’ own communication or paid advertising, the Internet offers a new type of communication – earned media.
This paper on video marketing addresses its potential as a form of earned media. Its goal is the investigation of factors which drive positive user responses – including likes, shares, and comments – to video advertisements on social media. We identified different Internet users’ experiences – absorption, credibility, perceived length, and perceived usefulness – as factors which influence a viewer’s attitude about a video ad as well as that viewer’s response intention. While the paper’s findings support the majority of the hypotheses, the impact of credibility could not be demonstrated. With this study we were among the first who specifically investigated impact factors which are relevant in video marketing and explicitly address users’ intention to provide user responses on social media.
Dr. Maria Madlberger
WVPU: You have involved a Webster Vienna student in this research. Could you tell us about that?
The article was a collaboration with MSc in Marketing graduate student Mauro Ortiz Bustamante. He was writing his bachelor thesis under my supervision. Mauro’s approach to the development of the research model and the research instrument – an online questionnaire for a quantitative survey – was excellent, so I learned early on in our collaboration of his potential as an academic researcher. After the finalization of his bachelor thesis, we revised his thesis, collected more data, and submitted it to the WWW/Internet conference where it was accepted for publication.
I am personally very happy and proud that Webster Vienna educates students who conduct research at such a high level that the results can be published academically. This project has turned out to be a true integration of teaching and research. I am particularly glad to see the benefit of this project for Mauro, who gained valuable experience and professional research skills and has made it to his first publication record already after finishing his bachelor studies. Mauro’s passion and determination in this project was impressive and a truly joyful experience.
I am very grateful to Mauro for the productive and delightful cooperation. This successful project makes me aim to involve students in my future research as well.
Mario Ortiz Bustamante
WVPU: Your research is often related to digital marketing and e-commerce. Why are you interested in this particular area within marketing?
My research interests have always been driven by academic relevance and practical utility. A constant factor in my research is the role of information systems in the context of marketing management. I am convinced that an interdisciplinary view that integrates marketing with the information systems context is necessary to provide useful answers to up-to-date marketing concerns and challenges.
Within marketing, digitization and e-commerce enable and require innovative strategies in order to fulfill customer expectations, maximize efficiency, and sustain competitiveness. Nowadays, e-commerce goes far beyond online selling and advertising; it covers electronic support of all marketing instruments and activities including marketing research and business models.
Turning again to the integration of teaching and research, I also see the extraordinary interest of students in the field of digital marketing. On the one hand, students are very Internet-savvy digital natives, on the other hand, they understand the increasing demand for competence in digital marketing management for their professional careers. This is not only reflected in a high student engagement in the classroom, but also in their large demand for digital marketing-related bachelor and master theses. Thus, a synergy of my research in the digitization in marketing is the high popularity of my research interests among students.
WVPU: Where do you think your research on the topic of your recent article will go next? Which questions are you working on?
Research on social media is in a very early stage as the number of applications and communication features is growing more quickly than the academic understanding of their consequences. One current issue in social media marketing is influencer marketing where I am involved in several projects, partly in collaboration with Webster Vienna graduate students. In this research stream, we are investigating attributes and attitudes towards influencers – Internet users with many followers who make product recommendations – and their impact on consumer behavior. I look forward to seeing some projects being finalized soon and collaborating with some of the involved students on future publications.
Last month, Dr. Maria-Teresa Punzi took part in the 3rd Vietnam Symposium in Banking and Finance (VSBF) in Hue city, Vietnam. In addition to her role as a speaker, she also served as a session chair and discussant.
Webster: Tell us a little bit about the session you chaired at the conference.
Dr. Punzi: I chaired a special session on macro-financial linkages. In that session, academics from the University of Rennes 1 (France), IPAG Business School (France), Australian Catholic University (Australia), Beijing Normal University (China), Boston University (United States) and Hue University (Vietnam) presented their research projects on topics related to macro-financial linkages.
I served as the discussant for a paper by Professor Yougui Wang from Beijing Normal University on “Alternative Decomposition of Aggregate Demand: What Underlies the Secular Stagnation?” Dr. Wang’s paper offers a large overview of stock-flow consistency models, which I believe will become much more prevalent in the future for explaining economic fluctuations. I gave my comments to the authors, who hopefully found my insights constructive.
Webster: You also served as a speaker at the conference. Could you tell us about the paper that you presented?
Dr. Punzi: I presented my research paper on “The Impact of Uncertainty on the Macro-Financial Linkage with International Financial Exposure.” This paper develops a two-country dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model to show how different uncertainty indexes can negatively affect the business and financial cycle where banks can borrow in their home country and also abroad. International financial exposure is included in the model by allowing domestic banks to buy foreign assets in a second market.
Saliently, this paper shows that macro-prudential policies are very effective in leaning against the credit cycle when monetary policy shocks hit the economy, but they become ineffective when the economic agents fear increasing monetary policy uncertainty, i.e. they expect an increase in the future interest rate. This is an important message for policy makers when setting macro-prudential policy. It is very important to understand the nature of shocks.
Webster: What were your takeaways from the conference, Dr. Punzi?
Dr. Punzi: I really enjoyed the conference. There were speakers from Asia, Australia, Japan, Europe and the United States. I feel I have learned so much, shared my knowledge with many international professors, and gained many insights which will improve my current research. Most importantly, I have developed new ideas for future research. It was a long trip but totally worth it.
The business and management department’s own Dr. Pernille Eskerod’s research on the hospitality sector, “Motivations for and Comparisons of Green Certificates within the Hotel Industry”, was recently published in the Universal Journal of Management. We sat down with her to discuss her latest article and her passion for eco-friendliness in the hospitality sector.
WVPU: Could you please tell us about your most recent article publication?
Dr. Eskerod: A blooming hotel industry has the downside of an increased negative environmental impact. At the same time, many hotel guests and employees have become conscious of eco-friendliness and green practices. A hotel that has obtained one or more green certificates promises green services, products, and operations, and possesses thereby (potentially) important strategic assets, when it comes to attracting customers and employees. As more than 100 different certifications are offered within the hotel industry, including Green Globe and Green Key, the choice of certificate(s) is a strategic choice for hotel management.
Both strategy and implementation are topics which are close to my heart, and I have done considerable research on both during my academic career. In this paper, we tried to determine similarities and differences among green certifications as well as analyze the presence of green certificates in different regions, such as southeast Europe. Even though many of the certifications are offered internationally, we identified clear differences in dissemination across regions. In addition to region, our analysis showed that belonging to a hotel chain/brand seems to be highly influential on the choice of certificate(s).
WVPU: You have involved other members of the Webster Vienna community in this research. Could you tell us about that?
Dr. Eskerod: The article was a collaboration with a Webster Vienna MBA student, Ms. Jovana Djuric, whose merit-based trainee scholarship allowed her to support me in data collection and writing up the text. We went to Serbia and Denmark to do interviews with hotel representatives, and this was very interesting and a lot of fun. In addition, we presented a former version of the article at a conference in Belgrade, Serbia, in Fall 2017.
In addition, an adjunct professor in the Business and Management Department, Mr. Peter Sunley, made two interviews on behalf of us at hotels in Thailand and in the Maldives. We exchanged ideas with him on the interview guide; this added value to our research, and it was a pleasure to work with him.
I am happy with and thankful for both Jovana and Peter’s cooperation - and will definitely aim to involve students and adjunct faculty in my future research as well.
WVPU: You seem to return to this topic often. What about the hospitality and hotel industries in particular do you find so interesting?
Dr. Eskerod: The hospitality industry is one of the world’s largest and most important industries – as well as an industry that is still developing rapidly. It's more than evident that the extent of travels, international conferences and overnight stays have increased significantly and will continue to rise. At the same time, it is a global industry. I think this fits well to Webster. I therefore not only benefit from my research in publications, but also as inputs for my teaching as all students can relate to this industry.
WVPU: Where do you think your research on this topic will go next? Which questions are you working on?
Dr. Eskerod: I am currently writing a conference paper with an MBA alumni, Ms. Viktoriya Onopriyenko, for an upcoming conference in Budapest. Viktoriya wrote about impacts of green certifications on brand image, operational efficiency and customer attraction capabilities in her master thesis, and at an interview where I also participated we came across a new trend within hotels, i.e. beekeeping in hotel backyards and rooftops. We thought that this was a nice, symbolic and heart-touching activity and decided to investigate it further. Therefore we are working on a paper called The Flowers and the Bees – Engaging Hotel Guests in Sustainable Tourism. I am looking forward to present it for the Webster Community at a later stage.
Prof. Dr. Maria Punzi, who recently joined the business and management department, has been published in Macroeconomics Dynamics (Elsevier) and in the Handbook of Green Finance: Energy Security and Sustainable Development (Springer). She has also been invited to give a talk on borrowing heterogeneity at the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN) of the European Commission this November. We asked her about her recent research endeavors.
WVPU: Could you tell us about your most recent journal publications and your research’s focus?
Dr. Punzi: My recent research on the relationship between unconventional monetary policy and international housing markets was a joint project with Florian Huber from Vienna University of Economics and Business. A primary focus of my research at the moment is Green Finance. One of my recent articles, the “Role of bank lending in financing green projects: a DSGE approach” will be published as a chapter of the Handbook of Green Finance: Energy Security and Sustainable Development (Springer), sponsored by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) in Tokyo, Japan. I presented this research last January in Kuala Lumpur at the Conference on Energy Security sponsored by the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development (JSC).
WVPU: Some of your research reflects your interest in how monetary policies affect housing markets. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Dr. Punzi: A recent research paper of mine (“International housing markets, unconventional monetary policy and the zero lower bound”) analyzes the relationship between unconventional monetary policy, measured through shadow interest rates, and housing markets in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and the Euro Area using a set of time-varying parameter VAR models. The findings suggest that the monetary policy transmission mechanism to the housing market has not changed with the implementation of quantitative easing or forward guidance for most of the economies considered. A counterfactual exercise provides some evidence that unconventional monetary policy has been particularly successful in dampening the consequences of the financial crisis on housing markets in the United States, while the effects are more muted in the remaining countries considered.
WVPU: What do you plan to discuss when you speak this November at the European Commission?
Dr. Punzi: I been invited to give a talk on Borrowing Heterogeneity at the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN) of the European Commission. I plan to explain the role of different types of borrowing in the mortgage market in amplifying economic and financial fluctuations.
Webster Vienna students and Prof. Madlberger investigate omni-channel shopping behavior
This past spring semester, undergraduate Management students and Prof. Dr. Maria Madlberger conducted a study about consumer behavior in one of the latest marketing trends, namely omni-channel business.
Since the emergence of electronic commerce and digital marketing, more and more companies have begun to recognize the importance of offering consumers online channels of distribution and communication in addition to retail stores and classical mass media. Over the course of the last few years, many retailers have opened online shops and become multi-channel retailers this way; however, nowadays consumers expect more than just a choice between physical and online stores. Young consumers, so-called digital natives, are particularly likely to continuously switch between online and offline channels while shopping. They want to have a shopping experience where online and offline marketing stimuli, so-called touchpoints, are seamlessly integrated.
A comprehensive omni-channel marketing experience requires consumers to actively participate. For example, if a retail store wants to offer its customers relevant information online while they are in the store, customers would have to activate their GPS or Bluetooth functions on their smart phones.
Students in Dr. Madlberger’s Marketing Research course investigated variables that influence consumers’ omni-channel shopping behavior and willingness to meet the technical prerequisites for omni-channel marketing activities. The sample was comprised of students residing in Austria who were intensive Internet and mobile phone users. This also allowed for the education level of the sample to be standardized. In the survey, study participants were shown two omni-channel marketing scenarios. Scenario 1 was a cross-channel scenario where an online coupon offered in the retail store can be accessed and redeemed via a mobile phone. Scenario 2 is a same-channel scenario; here, the coupon was redeemable via a mobile phone during a mobile purchase. For the cross-channel scenario, respondents were asked about their intention to activate GPS or Bluetooth to make the coupon work. For the same-channel scenario, they had to indicate their intention to download an app to make the coupon work.
The results show that the acceptance among the surveyed students for both marketing stimuli is high. Almost 55% are at least willing to turn on GPS/Bluetooth to use the coupon in the cross-channel scenario. In the same-channel scenario, around 44% are at least willing to install the app to access the coupon.
In both scenarios, attitude towards the marketing stimulus has a strong and significant impact on behavioral intention. However, factors that influence attitude differ. In the cross-channel scenario, the perceived service performance value, the emotional value, and the perceived brand integration positively influence attitude whereas convenience value does not show a significant impact. In the same-channel scenario, only service performance value and emotional value significantly influence the attitude. The study did not find any significant differences between men and women in respect of attitude and behavioral intention.
The results of the study will be prepared for academic publication.
During the spring semester, the business and management department hosted St. Louis adjunct instructor Dr. Michael McKinney, the recipient of the Sverdrup Fellowship. The Sverdrup Fellowship asks awardees to work on academic research while at the host campus. Dr. McKinney, who is familiar with how support groups for small business start-ups function in his native St. Louis, teamed up with Webster Vienna’s own Dr. Nada Mumdziev to research how similar groups function in Vienna. We had the opportunity to ask them some questions about their ongoing research together before Dr. McKinney jetted back to the United States in early May.
Webster Vienna: Dr. Mumdziev, could you briefly tell us about your research with Dr. McKinney?
Dr. Mumdziev: Upon Dr. Kinney´s arrival in Vienna, we discussed our research interests and experience and quickly realized that they overlap, so we discussed current issues in entrepreneurship and possible research topics, and decided to start the research project, which is focused on understanding the outcomes of mentoring sessions between experienced business practitioners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Webster Vienna: Dr. McKinney, how did you first become interested in entrepreneurship and the resources that exist for young or new entrepreneurs?
Dr. McKinney: I have many years of experience in teaching entrepreneurship, and I have worked for many years as a mentor in St.Louis - helping young entrepreneurs to advance their business plans. We had some very successful young firms as a result of this process. This experience increased my interest in understanding how some aspects of the mentoring process, such as the creation of personal relationships between the mentor and the mentee, as well as their individual perception of the whole process, can influence the results of mentoring.
Webster Vienna: Dr. Mumdziev, how would you explain your research to someone who doesn’t have a background in entrepreneurship?
Dr. Mumdziev: Entrepreneurship is a wide area and includes a lot of different elements; therefore, researching entrepreneurship can include many different disciplines. In my research, I am interested in the external environment and the entrepreneurship ecosystem (both institutions and individuals), and how they may affect market success or emergence of new entrepreneurial ventures. I have been working on two projects. In the first project I investigated crowdinvesting, which is a way of collecting funds for young businesses through a crowdinvesting platform. I wanted to learn what influences crowdinvestors may have on the funded start-up and what kind of social capital exists within that network.
The second project investigated whether and how regional industrial clusters in Austria - such as food, furniture, or automotive - affect the emergence of new start-ups. This research led to some very interesting results; however, due to the structure of cluster organizations and their strategic goals, a direct link with the emergence of a new start-up in the cluster’s region could not be established. Clusters seem to be highly important for startup firms, which find themselves in a later development phase and already have a proven business model and tested product. Early business ventures, however, benefit much less, and clusters are rarely a trigger for their emergence.
Webster Vienna: Dr. McKinney, what were your takeaways from the entrepreneurship and/or start-up scene here in Vienna? Is it comparable to St. Louis?
Dr. McKinney: Vienna has a very developed entrepreneurship scene. There are a lot of support programs and grants offered in Vienna, and a lot is being done by the local government to establish Vienna as a regional entrepreneurship hub. In comparison to St. Louis, however, the investor community in general and the business angel community in particular is less developed, but that seems to be characteristic of not only the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Vienna, but also of many other European countries. There is a lack of venture capital, but I am sure that it will change in the future. Conversely, Vienna is investing a lot in R&D and tech startups, which is a great way to go. I learned about some great and innovative incubator programs and they seem to have great success in supporting the emergence of successful start-ups.
Webster Vienna: You have been studying the start-up environment in Vienna for a while. How has it changed? How do you envision that it will change in the future?
Dr. Mumdziev: I agree with the observations of Dr. Mckinney regarding some characteristics and issues of the ecosystem In Vienna. In addition to that, I think that entrepreneurship education is one of the important enabling factors which would increase entrepreneurial activity and additionally encourage those who are young and innovative to take the entrepreneurial path. There are few very good and successful extra-curricular entrepreneurship programs. For instance, Webster Vienna offers the Entrepreneurship Certificate program. There is also the Entrepreneurship Avenue program which connects several universities in Vienna and takes place once a year. You also have a number of good university-related incubators.
Other than that, I think that Vienna is on a great path to become an important hub of the region, as many governmental and private programs and initiatives contribute to the success and work together. Access to funding should also improve in the future. For example, Austria currently has one of the best legal frameworks for crowdinvesting, which is already a great step forward. I think that the perception of entrepreneurship within society is also changing. All of that will certainly result in an increase of both local and international start-ups in Vienna and in a vibrant entrepreneurial scene. So, I am sure that Vienna will be an important “entrepreneurship destination” in the future.
Webster Vienna Professor’s Book Out Now
Recently, business and management department’s own Dr. Menbere Workie Tiruneh’s book Overshooting the Maastricht Criteria: External Imbalances and Income Convergence in the European Union was made available for purchase by Nova Science Publishers in New York. We sat down with Dr. Workie to discuss his research on the European Union and the Great Recession.
Webster Vienna: How did the economic underpinnings of the European Union become a central part of your academic research? What do you find so interesting about it?
Dr. Workie: A simple answer would be that I obtained my graduate and doctorate studies in Europe and have been living in Europe for a long time. This wouldn’t be enough to develop a research interest though. I have witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall as well as the transformation of Europe with remarkable achievements, such as the creation of the European Union and the Economic and Monetary Union. In my understanding this was both a political achievement that has significantly reduced regional tensions as well as an economic one in response to the globalization of the world economy. It was particularly very interesting to observe and investigate the challenges of Central and Eastern European countries (former communist countries) to adopt policies in order to get the letter of invitation to join the European Union. In my view most of these countries would have been far less developed by now without the incentives to join the EU. Regional, cohesion and structural funds have also played a pivotal role in reducing income disparities across countries. Nevertheless, regional disparity within countries remains a persistent policy challenge for most of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Webster Vienna: Can you tell us a little more about your book project? How would you explain your research to someone who doesn’t have a background in economic policy?
Dr. Workie: I guess every rational person understands what it takes to have bank loans which far exceed someone’s income. This holds true for a government as well: if a government spends more than its income, then sooner or later this would backfire. The bad thing about over borrowing is that interest rates are an increasing function of the level of debt. The higher the level of debt, the higher the interest rates. We have witnessed this numerous times in history. In this respect, my book discusses theoretical frameworks of global imbalances as well as systematically evaluates paradigm shifts in these imbalances in the past four decades or so. It also brings state-of-the- art empirical explorations on determinants of external imbalances with particular emphasis on optimal size of public debt in the European Union. The book also discusses policy dilemmas in an attempt to reduce future possible challenges for the European Union.
Webster Vienna: What is your verdict about the direction of economic policy and the European Union? Are you more hopeful or more doubtful about the future?
Dr. Workie: Europe has been at peace for a fairly sustainable period, which is considered as one of the outcomes of European integration. I would leave this for political scientists to offer more qualified assessments. On the economic front European economies have undoubtedly benefited from free movement of goods and services as well as investments in the last two decades. There was undeniable achievement in real income convergence, where poorer members of the European Union having significantly higher real income per capita growth for the past two decades or so. There are also challenges about the vulnerability of the current European arrangement as was disclosed during the Great Recession. Some countries are falling behind in terms of undertaking structural reforms to be more resilient when difficult times come. This of course created tensions in the European Union and there are various policies that have been discussed as how to reduce possible future challenges. A lot has been achieved about regulation of the financial system including the banking industry. There are still pending issues such as migration and coping with the consequences of Brexit. In my view there are not too many better options for the EU in spite of numerous challenges to the current arrangement. I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the European Union.
Webster Vienna: Which resources do you use to locate reliable data for your research?
Dr. Workie: I regularly use the Eurostat database, the Ameco database of the European Commission, OECD database, the World Bank database, the World Economic Outlook compiled by the International Monetary Fund, the Penn World Tables, the Groningen database, etc.
Webster Vienna: What recommendations do you have for a student who is interested in studying the economics of the European Union?
Dr. Workie: The EU is a very interesting and dynamic political, social and economic environment that is still in the making and there are plenty of issues that emerge and are tackled using a sort of “trial and error” approach. There are numerous success stories but also challenges and open issues subject to research. The EU is also the second largest economy in the world with job opportunities and I would encourage both our European and international students to focus their research on European issues, European companies, industries and institutions.
Book Description (from Nova):
While mainstream economists were convinced they had solved the business cycle phenomena of macroeconomic policy making, the Great Recession has once again underscored the verdict of history, where every boom has almost always been accompanied by a bust and recession. The book discusses theoretical controversies and state-of-the art empirical studies on the link between external imbalances and real income convergence in the European Union. The book shows successful real income convergence across the European Union on the country level and pinpoints persistent regional disparities within countries in most of the member states of the European Union. The book addresses broader aspects of external imbalances and their key determinants and provides fresh empirical and exploratory evidence on paradigm shifts in the past several decades. This book also empirically estimates both the causality between public debt and economic growth as well as the optimum level of public debt for EU member states. Additionally, the book discusses the link between illicit capital flows and external imbalances in the European Union. Overall, the book critically investigates both theoretical frameworks of global imbalances and systematically evaluates milestones and paradigm shifts in global imbalances; it also offers new empirical results based on the panel data of both “old” and “new” EU member states in the past several decades. Finally, the book addresses a number of policy challenges, disputes and controversies in the European Union in terms of solving the ongoing external imbalances and harmonizing policies to prevent future challenges. (Nova)
Industry Clusters: Start-Up Catalyst?
Do industry clusters have a positive effect on the emergence of new start-ups in Austria? Our Dr. Nada Mumdziev investigates.
A business cluster is a regional concentration of interrelated businesses, suppliers, and associated institutions in a particular field, and they can be socio-economic engines of competitiveness and growth. Clusters are known to have positive effects on businesses’ competitiveness and performance because they can promote knowledge spill-overs, information-sharing, access to customers and partners, a favorable business environment, and stronger competition.
However, one important question emerges: Can clusters affect the emergence of new start-ups and contribute to their survival and success?
A research project conducted by Dr. Nada Mumdziev at Webster Vienna in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Pablo Collazzo (WU Vienna) addressed this important question. The empirical data was collected in Austria through extensive interviews with 23 representatives of Austrian clusters and regional incubators.
Takeaways from the Research
Dr. Mumdziev and Dr. Collazzo’s research on local clusters found that clusters have a different purpose in each phase of a start-up. The phases below are based upon the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor framework.
Start-up Conception Phase: Clusters can be a valuable source of insider information about market needs, can open up niches of specialization, and even present new market opportunities; however, clusters play only a minor role in this phase. Our empirical evidence indicates that clusters rarely see start-up firms emerging within their structures. This is primarily because cluster programs and activities focus on supporting established businesses, and they tend to lack infrastructure and resources to work with entrepreneurs during the conceptual phase.
New Firm Phase: In this young phase, from a company’s foundation until about the third year, clusters can bring tremendous value. Networking opportunities, access to customers and partners, as well as contacts to established market players are just some of the benefits pointed out by the interviewees. Clusters can, and should, play an important role in this phase and help young companies survive.
Established Firm Phase: The core function of clusters is to support established businesses’ growth and competitiveness. Access to customers and partners; fostering of a competitive climate, and coordination of innovation projects are just some of the activities. It seems that the effect of clusters is the strongest when start-ups reach this stage. However, experts point to group-think, lack of the “outside-of-the-cluster” perspective and lack of agility, as some of the pitfalls. This can reflect negatively on competitiveness and innovativeness of businesses.
So, how could a cluster’s potential be best harnessed to help start-ups emerge?
A straightforward solution would be to build up resources and capabilities of cluster organizations very similar to incubators, which are companies which help new startups to develop. This would be an unnecessary duplication of efforts, though. Cluster organizations could, however, develop much closer collaborations with existing incubators. As suggested by the collected data, a way of fostering new start-up creation could be virtual clusters, which stretch beyond boundaries of a single cluster and connect firms across different clusters, as well as incubators and universities within a network’s joint projects. In this way, incubators, often the initial physical location for many start-ups, would retain their important role, but would get access to information and opportunities inherent within clusters. The agility of a start-up paired with a larger company could potentially add value, so together it would be a win-win situation.
Webster Research Featured in Acclaimed German Novel Die Hauptstadt
Recently, business and management department head Dr. Nikolaos Antonakakis’ research on the impact of economic austerity on suicide rates was referenced in the much-acclaimed German language novel Die Hauptstadt, written by Vienna-native Robert Menasse, and winner of the German Book Prize (Deutscher Buchpreis) in 2017.
Webster Vienna: How did you find out that your research had been referenced?
Dr. Antonakakis: A colleague contacted me to tell me she had been reading the novel in her free time when she stumbled upon the reference. Even though my name isn’t mentioned explicitly, she could tell from the context that the Webster Vienna Private University study in question was research I had conducted in collaboration with Prof. Alan Collins (Nottingham Trent University and University of Portsmouth) about suicide rates.
Webster Vienna: Can you tell us a little more about the research that was mentioned in the novel?
Dr. Antonakakis: Following the austerity measures introduced in Greece and other southern Eurozone countries, there was a remarkable increase in suicide rates in those countries, which motivated us to conduct scientific research on the relationship between fiscal austerity and suicide mortality in these countries. Together with my co-author, Prof. Alan Collins, we published two studies in that area, one focusing in on Greece and the second including Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. After controlling for several common socioeconomic determinants of suicide mortality, such as unemployment, income, fertility rates, divorce rates and alcohol consumption, we found the impact of fiscal austerity on suicide mortality to be gender-, age- and time-specific, and robust to alternative proxies of fiscal austerity. In particular, we found fiscal austerity to be associated with increased suicides rates on the male population in the 65-89 age group, while the female population seemed to be resilient to fiscal austerity measures.
Webster Vienna: Your research was picked up by several media outlets upon its release. Why do you think that happened?
Dr. Antonakakis: The results of our research generated a lot of media attention because of the substantial implications for policymakers and health agencies. Our research highlighted the health costs of austerity, in contrast to the well-established economic costs, and also offered some guidance on the demographic targeting of suicide prevention measures. Our research also showed that improving labor market institutions can help mitigate the negative effects of fiscal austerity on suicide mortality. Overall, our results advocated a paradigm shift in political economy to set a new course of policy development where markets and profits are explicitly means to human ends and not the other way around. That is, placing health before wealth.
Webster Vienna: Where in the novel is your study mentioned?
Dr. Antonakakis: You can find the reference to Webster Vienna & my research on pages 255-256 of Die Hauptstadt. Mr. Menasse’s novel is a satirical commentary about the workings of the European Union, and in this particular scene a bureaucrat divulges how he has lost confidence in his work after seeing the study. You can purchase the book online to read more.
You can read Dr. Antonakakis’ research yourself:
Suicide rates in Greece (and other European countries) have been on a remarkable upward trend following the global recession of 2008 and the European sovereign debt crisis of 2009. However, recent investigations of the impact on Greek suicide rates from the 2008 financial crisis have restricted themselves to simple descriptive or correlation analyses. Controlling for various socio–economic effects, this study presents a statistically robust model to explain the influence on realized suicidality of the application of fiscal austerity measures and variations in macroeconomic performance over the period 1968–2011. The responsiveness of suicide to levels of fiscal austerity is established as a means of providing policy guidance on the extent of suicide behavior associated with different fiscal austerity measures. The results suggest (i) significant age and gender specificity in these effects on suicide rates and that (ii) remittances have suicide-reducing effects on the youth and female population. These empirical regularities potentially offer some guidance on the demographic targeting of suicide prevention measures and the case for ‘economic’ migration.
While linkages between some macroeconomic phenomena and suicides in some countries have been explored, only two studies, hitherto, have established a causal relationship between fiscal austerity and suicide, albeit in a single country. The aim of this study is to provide the first systematic multiple–country evidence of a causal relationship of fiscal austerity on time–, gender–, and age–specific suicide mortality across five Eurozone peripheral countries, namely Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain over the period 1968–2012, while controlling for various socioeconomic differences. The impact of fiscal adjustments is found to be gender–, age– and time–specific. Specifically, fiscal austerity has short–, medium– and long–run suicide increasing effects on the male population in the 65–89 age group. A 1% reduction in government spending is associated with a 1.38%, 2.42% and 3.32% increase in the short–, medium– and long–run, respectively, of male suicides rates in the 65–89 age group in the Eurozone periphery. These results are highly robust to alternative measures of fiscal austerity. Improved labor market institutions help mitigate the negative effects of fiscal austerity on suicide mortality.
Prof. Dr. Pernille Eskerod, together with Karyne Ang of the University of Technology Sydney and Erling S. Andersen of the BI Norwegian Business School, conducted a study on (1) stakeholder value constructs in megaprojects, and (2) project opportunity exploitation in megaprojects. Both studies were based on the same in-depth case study.
Megaprojects consume numerous resources and impact numerous people. Those affected can even span generations. Therefore, it is important that megaprojects bring considerable value to both their initiators and other stakeholders. Instead of “just” bringing what has been accepted as “good enough” in a business case analysis at the project’s conception, megaprojects can potentially bring more value than expected if opportunities are identified and exploited. This can happen if a megaproject is used in a way that differs from its intended purpose(s) or by initially-unintended stakeholder groups.
A single case study of an infrastructure megaproject, i.e. the construction and operation of a 50+ year-old American bridge (Astoria-Megler Bridge, crossing Columbia River between Oregon and Washington states) was undertaken. The data consisted of 14 interviews, online videos of speeches, newspaper articles, books, historical documents, website texts, and photographs. Some of the interviewees were related family members (i.e., parents and son, father and daughter), thus accounting for subsequent generations being involved in construction of the bridge. In addition, Dr. Eskerod made onsite observations during a six-day stay in a hotel in Astoria, close to the bridge.
In the first study, ways to understand, classify, and express megaproject stakeholder value were identified. The research links different stakeholder types to types of value constructs. Knowing which types of value constructs matter to different stakeholder types can potentially help project representatives communicate more efficiently and effectively.
The second study shows that project opportunity exploitation can be enhanced by:
- encouraging and accepting the involvement of many categories of stakeholders that can take advantage the project for their own purposes;
- enhancing that stakeholders are proud of the project, and thereby will engage in or even initiate activities that are generating further benefits to themselves and/or others;
- realizing that project opportunities may materialize after a long time (e.g. the bridge’s 50 year anniversary); and
- celebrating achievements of the project and thereby stimulating stakeholders to exploit the opportunities created by the project, which will contribute to further benefits of the project.
The studies were presented at international conferences, i.e. IRNOP 2017 in Boston and EURAM 2017 in Glasgow, both in June 2017.
You can read more about the research in the articles below:
Eskerod, P. & Ang, K. (2017). Stakeholder Value Constructs in Megaprojects: A Long-Term Assessment Case Study. Project Management Journal, 48(6): 60-75. https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/stakeholder-value-constructs-megapr...
Eskerod, P., Ang, K. & Andersen, E.S. (2018). Increasing Project Benefits by Project Opportunity Exploitation, International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 11(1). (will be published soon)
Astoria Bridge in 2009, Photo courtesy of Ron Reiring (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0, 2017)
Prof. Dr. Maria Madlberger, together with Dr. Jasmina Dlačić and Maja Stipetic from the University of Rijeka, conducted a study on gamification in the tourism sector. The research investigates how gamification, specifically advergames, can impact consumer behavior toward and cognition of tourism destinations.
Gamification is gaining in popularity among advertisers to support marketing and promotional activities. The use of game design elements can be an effective means of engaging users in non-gaming contexts, such as learning, business, or at work. Particularly advergames, in which a game’s premise is built around the product being advertised, are seen as a both promising and innovative advertising instrument. Advergames are serious games, that is, games whose purpose is not entertainment, but instead to serve a specific purpose, such as promoting a product or raising brand awareness.
The research team explored how an advergame can influence consumer attitude and behavioral intention through the ACB (affect, behavior, cognition) model of attitudes by investigating users’ cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to tourism destinations that appear in an advergame. For this purpose, the researchers conducted a qualitative study with in-depth interviews among 16 non-Austrian participants from eleven countries. The study involved the advergame "Austria Snapshot Adventure" that has been launched by the Austrian National Tourist Office to promote the tourist destinations Vienna, Salzburg, and Tyrol.
The study shows that advergames can be effective in increasing users’ awareness and other cognitive performances as well as stimulating positive feelings such as fun and curiosity. Furthermore, depending on prior knowledge, the advergame can foster players’ intention to visit the destinations that appear in the game. The results showcase the potential but also the limitations of advergames in attitude formation as well as important human-computer interaction issues such as interactivity and difficulty level of the game.
The study by Dr. Madlberger, Dr. Dlačić, and Ms. Stipetic will be presented at the upcoming Multikonferenz Wirtschaftsinformatik (MKWI), which will be held in March 2018 in Lüneburg, Germany.
Green Certifications within the Hotel Industry
Prof. Dr. Pernille Eskerod and trainee scholar and MBA student Ms. Jovana Djuric, from Webster Vienna’s business and management department, are undertaking research on green certifications within the hotel industry. The research concerns how hotels participate in third-party green certification programs in order to minimize their environmental footprint and to attract environmentally-conscious customers and employees.
A blooming hotel industry has the downside of an increased negative environmental impact. At the same time, many hotel guests and employees have become conscious of eco-friendliness and green practices. In addition, 2017 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. A particular emphasis has been place on resource efficiency and environmental protection.
A hotel that has green certification(s) promises more green services, products, and operations, and therefore may potentially possesses an important strategic asset when it comes to attracting customers and employees. Many green certifications are offered within the hotel industry, such as the Green Globe and Green Key certifications. Choosing which certificate(s) to pursue becomes a strategic choice for hotel management.
Dr. Eskerod and Ms. Djuric are examining green certifications in order to determine similarities and differences among them. As part of the research, they are analyzing certificate usage in different regions of the world. Even though many of the certifications are offered internationally, clear differences in dissemination across regions have been identified. In addition to region, belonging to a hotel chain or brand seems to highly influence which certificate(s) are sought.
The researchers have conducted interviews on green practices and certifications in both Serbia and Denmark. In Serbia, the interviews took place at Hotel Prag and Radisson Blu Old Mill Hotel, both in Belgrade, which are among the country’s leading business hotels. Hotel Prag has been certified by the ISO 14001 standard on Environmental Management, whereas Radisson Blu Old Mill Hotel was the first hotel in Serbia to be Green Key certified. Additionally, it received a sustainability award from the Serbian Chamber of Commerce in Sept. 2017.
In Denmark, interviews were conducted with the Deputy CEO for Foundation for Environmental Education, who is also the director of the International Green Key Program. An International Green Key Assistant and a trainee took also part in the interview. Further, Eskerod and Djuric interviewed the Danish Green Key national coordinator as well as the PR & Communication manager of a boutique hotel in Denmark. This hotel is one of the front runners, nationally and internationally, when it comes to green practices.
The two researchers presented their preliminary results at the 3rd International Tourism and Hospitality Management Conference, which was held in Belgrade, Serbia, in Sept. 2017.
Policy-related economic uncertainty puts US males at suicide risk
Younger and older males in the United States of America are more likely to commit suicide at times of increased policy-related economic uncertainty, according to new research from Webster Vienna Private University, the University of Portsmouth, and the University of Pretoria. The female population across all ages was found to be resilient to policy-related economic uncertainty.
The researchers recommend that the US government adopts a two-pronged approach. Information for the general public must communicate that the government is working hard to minimise uncertainty. As some in the population are at risk, particularly younger and older males, government should also ensure that counselling services are available for vulnerable people.
The researchers investigated suicide mortality in the United States over the period 1950-2013, taking account of other socioeconomic factors that influence suicide mortality. While it has long been recognized that periods of economic uncertainty, characterised by increased unemployment and lower economic activity, are associated with increased suicide rates, this research is the first to examine the impact of policy-related economic uncertainty on suicide mortality.
Dr Nikolaos Antonakakis, Associate Professor at Webster Vienna Private University and Visiting Fellow at the University of Portsmouth's Business School, said:
“Our results have important policy implications for the US government.
“Economic uncertainty is unavoidable. As our results show, it is higher uncertainty that tends to cause increases in suicide rates, but lower uncertainty does not necessarily reduce suicide rates. So, government must work to ensure that extreme increases in uncertainty are avoided.
“At times of uncertainty, this means the government must not only ensure that it is making strong efforts to ensure lower levels of uncertainty. It must also actively and clearly communicate this in information for the public generally, particularly to younger and older males.
“At the same time, the US government should also ensure that appropriate counselling services are available for vulnerable people, and also communicate this clearly.
“The bottom line of our analysis is that uncertainty should be kept within bounds and attempts to do so must be well-publicized. Of course, at the same time, the importance of other predictors in affecting suicide rates like unemployment and growth slowdown cannot be ignored, but these variables are likely to improve with reduction in economic policy uncertainty.”
The research is published in Social Indicators Research:
Antonakakis, N. and Gupta, R. (2017). Is Economic Policy Uncertainty Related to Suicide Rates? Evidence from the United States. Social Indicators Research 133(2), 543-560. DOI: 10.1007/s11205-016-1384-4.
Full PDF can be found here.
Last year the business and management department launched an ongoing Research Seminar series, allowing students to hear firsthand about ongoing research projects conducted by our department faculty. The primary goals of this series are for students to be exposed to the common stages and methods of academic research and apply those to their own thesis projects. Both undergraduate and graduate students are highly encouraged to attend.
Recent research seminars have focused on topics as varied as the relationship between crime rates and gambling in Slovakia, the stimuli behind the growth of mobile phone commerce, and the benefits of investing in information and communication technology. Our seminar, hosted by Dr. Ioannis Chatziantoniou Ioannis, explores the initial idea, theoretical background, hypothesis, research methods, and findings of a study on UK housing prices that he conducted in tandem with Webster’s own Dr. Nikolaos Antonakakis and Mr. David Gabauer.