16th October 2010: FV Compounding

Playing Jack Wheeler’s lectures on Corporate Finance for Healthcare Administrators, on present value (PV), future value (FV), and compounding formulas.

Newly minted Professors Terry Flew (QUT) and Ken Wark (The New School), and others are debating Graeme Turner’s Australian article on the ‘scorched earth’ experience of humanities academics at regional universities. Two thoughts:

(1) University administrators compare publication points from full-time teaching staff versus institute-based researchers. This leads to resource allocation concerns.  Institutes are often established around a research team, demonstrable expertise, or as a strategic goal. Do the administrative, operational burdens and financing costs of an institute structure deliver on the KPIs? In other words, is this the best structure — organisationally — and investment vehicle to achieve the KPIs and strategic goals? Often not: this means the institute structure is ‘rolled back’ into a university faculty or program. The projected FV benefits do not arise, compared with other PV options, or ways to undertake the same activities in a more effective and efficient manner.

(2) Danny Butt observes that many US universities have extensive alumni networks and private equity endowments. My experience at several universities is that this fund-raising and ‘rainmaking’ is a gap, and institutions vary in their solutions: professor-driven industry collaboration, chancellor-led bequests, ‘named’ foundations, and alumni departments modelled on commercial fund-raising. FV is possible and requires PV investment in the annual budget cycle, and then sales-driven results: “Always be closing.”

The challenge for new academics: developing an individual ‘program of research that can lead ‘iteratively’ to ‘targeted’ publications, collaborative teams, and funding (university, industry, grant-making agencies, or self-funding), despite what local conditions are faced. This requires focus, timing, patience, and the ability to adopt a stance that musician and producer Robert Fripp calls a “small, mobile, intelligent unit.” Awareness of patronage networks: read Yamamoto Tsunetomo‘s Bushido commentary Hagakure.

There’s hope of a different kind of FV pay-off: congrats to coauthor Ben Eltham and his wife SJ on the arrival of their daughter Eurydice.