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07 January 2021

Felix Kempf

Felix Kempf is a current PhD student at King's Business School.

Felix Kempf
Felix Kempf is a current PhD student at King's Business School.

Tell us a little bit about your PhD research topic and your supervisors.

Under the supervision of Professor George Kapetanios and Dr Fotis Papailias, I primarily focus my research on the interpretability of machine learning in empirical asset pricing.

Additionally, in an industry cooperation with the investment management firm Invesco, I explore the performance boundaries of machine learning by asking under what conditions specific machine models start and stop adding value to empirical asset pricing.

What are your research interests and how did they evolve?

My primary research interests are empirical asset pricing and machine learning. Having studied engineering first has equipped me with an analytical and quantitative mindset, which is why I have always been interested in the quantitative nature of asset pricing.

However, coming from a different discipline also forces you to think in an interdisciplinary way which is why I enjoy my research so much as it combines asset pricing theory with machine learning. What I enjoy most about the marriage of those two fields is that it combines academic rigor with practical relevance.

What have you most enjoyed about your PhD so far?

While being a PhD student means that you constantly have to juggle a thousand things all at once, it also means that you are given the freedom to decide what to work on, how and when. I perceive this freedom as a luxury as it allows me to pursue my research ideas independently. However, working independently does not mean you are alone. King’s Business School is an incredibly social place and being part of the PhD community has also been amazing.

What were some of the challenges of PhD research and how did you overcome them?

During my personal PhD journey, I have been confronted with many different challenges, ranging from understanding the key literature, writing code, presenting my work in front of an expert audience and even teaching for the first time.

While this can be intimidating, King’s Business School really encourages you to embrace and own every challenge. There is a real sense of community and support which I have benefited from in so many ways and for which I am truly grateful.

What has your experience of transitioning from student to researcher been like?

Being a researcher is fundamentally different from being a student and this transition can be difficult. The School has a fantastic on-boarding system where you get to know the entire research community and all other new PhD students which has made this transition really easy.

What do you like most about studying in London?

London is without a doubt one of the most exciting places to live in. On the weekends, I love exploring as there is always something new to discover. At the same time, London is one the most important financial hubs worldwide. This makes networking or attending conferences much easier. Our research group regularly hosts guest speakers who are either experts in the field or industry leaders.

What are your career aspirations? How has your time at King’s Business School influenced your thinking?

At King’s there is a real sense of pursuing your own career aspirations while also serving society.

Our research community is extremely fortunate to not only have access to a world-class education but also an extensive network of alumni around the globe. This international outlook and the fact that we strive to produce research with real-life impact has definitely confirmed my aspiration to continue to work in research.

How do you think your experience at King's Business School will shape your career? 

I believe that I have greatly benefited from the interdisciplinary research environment as well as our intercultural community. The School truly encourages you to step out of you comfort zone and grow with the challenge. The exposure we get – it might be leading a conference, teaching, starting your own non-profit, working on community projects or cooperating in industry projects – is extremely valuable, regardless of your future career aspiration.

What advice would you give to those looking to study for a PhD in Banking & Finance at King’s Business School?

Do not worry if you are unsure about your specific research interests yet, you are definitely looking in the right place. While your research proposal outlines your field of interest and how you aim to contribute to current research, pivoting along the way is normal.