A look at ‘Emerging Capital Markets’ class

Professors Bruce Wolfson and Jorge Mariscal.

Professors Bruce Wolfson and Jorge Mariscal.

By Andreas Maerki, MPA International Finance and Economic Policy Dec ‘14

This semester I’ve been taking the “Emerging Capital Markets” course at SIPA with Professor Bruce Wolfson and Professor Jorge Mariscal. Professor Wolfson is a seasoned, emerging markets lawyer who’s counseled global financial institutions for more than 30 years in virtually every region and every aspect of financial services. He has substantial experience in negotiating and rescheduling sovereign and private sector debt. Professor Mariscal has more than 25 years of experience in international financial markets, with more than 20 years specifically dedicated to emerging markets. He was a partner and chief investment strategist at a multibillion asset manager and a managing director at one of the largest global investment banks, where he coordinated the firm’s emerging markets investment research product. Both professors have been teaching this course at Columbia since 1999.

The goal of “Emerging Capital Markets” is to expose students to the historical relationships between financial risk, capital structure and legal and policy issues in emerging markets. Students identify patterns in investor and borrower behavior, evaluate sovereign capital structures and analyze sovereign defaults—including the debt negotiation process during the various debt crises of the past 175 years. This course also studies the genesis and outcome of several banking and stock market crises seen in emerging market (EM) countries.

Typically, a solid understanding of economic and financial history is an important—and usually neglected—background needed for anyone interested in the banking industry or economic policy-making. But this course doesn’t require that its students have a high level of finance theory or law (although, some macroeconomic or finance theory will be useful).

The first half of the course consisted of lectures and reading materials about the definition of emerging markets, liquidity and pull theories and various recent crises and the implemented solutions. We also covered the current default of Argentina and the role of the so called “Vulture Investors.” During the second half of the course we presented group research projects about emerging markets. My group analyzed the emerging markets in Africa. Specifically, we compared and contrasted Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa, and identified the risk and opportunities these countries are experiencing.

“Emerging Capital Markets’” rich lesson plan makes it easy to see why the course is one of the most popular classes at SIPA. Despite its popularity, the professors keep the class size small to maintain healthy and vibrant class discussions, and to ensure their students are getting the one-on-one attention they crave. Therefore, I highly suggest that you don’t wait until your last semester to take this course!

It’s truly a class you don’t want to miss while at SIPA.