Q&A with Youngsoo Kim, URFA Treasurer

What prompt­ed URFA Trea­sur­er Young­soo Kim to join serve in this posi­tion? How do the roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties of URFA’s Trea­sur­er con­nect with bar­gain­ing and poten­tial job action? What are the top three things that he enjoys about his posi­tion as asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of finance at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na? Find out in this Q&A.

What inter­est­ed you in becom­ing involved with URFA?

I have to take the clock back a lit­tle bit. Dur­ing my ear­ly days at U of R I had unpleas­ant expe­ri­ence, so I turned to URFA. The griev­ance chair helped me in deal­ing with that episode, so I was very appre­cia­tive at that time. And after I got tenure, I thought I’d bet­ter pay back what I owe to URFA. So, it’s more of help­ing younger peo­ple who might be in the same shoes as I had in ear­li­er time. And about a month or two ago, I actu­al­ly had a chance to talk to that per­son at URFA who helped me dur­ing that time peri­od. She remem­bered me and she clear­ly remem­bered all the episodes at that time. So, we were able to talk and she real­ly appre­ci­at­ed my get­ting back to her and I said thank you. It’s a cir­cle. I’m hap­py to be here and try­ing to give a lit­tle hand to the fac­ul­ty mem­bers in need.

Headshot of Youngsoo Kim

URFA Trea­sur­er, Young­soo Kim. Pho­to pro­vid­ed by Young­soo Kim.

What are the Treasurer’s responsibilities?

It is finan­cial plan­ning in the short-term and in the long term. We have two finan­cial activ­i­ties. The first one is day-to-day oper­a­tions. Mon­ey comes in, mon­ey goes out, so we need to have some idea about what will hap­pen to the bot­tom line at the end of fis­cal year. Will there be big­ger hole or will there be a large sur­plus at the end of at the end of fis­cal year? That is short-term finan­cial planning. 

Now the sec­ond one, which is equal­ly impor­tant, is long-term plan­ning. We have trust fund. It is about $3.5 mil­lion and it’s invest­ed in, you know, var­i­ous cap­i­tal mar­kets and that mon­ey real­ly has a vital pur­pose — a strike fund gives us a strong ammu­ni­tion when we’re bar­gain­ing. If we don’t have enough ammu­ni­tion, our posi­tion can­not be strong, so it is very impor­tant to invest this part of mon­ey in a sen­si­ble way.

That’s the major respon­si­bil­i­ties of a Trea­sur­er, and that’s where the Trust Fund Com­mit­tee and the Finance Com­mit­tee come in. The Finance Com­mit­tee deals with the day-to-day finan­cial plan­ning. the Trust Fund Com­mit­tee are more focused on the long-term man­age­ment of this trust fund.

And about the record keep­ing and pro­duc­ing the finan­cial state­ments, I don’t have a direct involve­ment with that — it is del­e­gat­ed to the Finan­cial Offi­cer and Executive.

Can you say a bit more about how the invest­ments we have are help­ful when it comes to bargaining?

If we have enough mon­ey behind us then we can eas­i­ly go to the mem­bers for a man­date for strike. Being on the pick­et row is a cost­ly process since mem­bers will not get salary from the uni­ver­si­ty. Well, that’s where this trust fund mon­ey is very use­ful — we pay to the mem­bers dur­ing the strike period.

Let’s shift the focus to your work now at the uni­ver­si­ty. Would you like to share a bit about what you teach and your areas of research if you have?

I teach finance right now. I’ve been teach­ing late­ly the intro­duc­to­ry cor­po­rate finance. This is real­ly a foun­da­tion of entire finance cours­es. In a 400 lev­el right now I’m teach­ing finan­cial markets. 

For research side, I’ve been doing some­thing called mar­ket microstruc­ture. It sounds strange, but basi­cal­ly, it’s look­ing at the effect of the design of a stock mar­ket exchange on the trad­ing cost. If you buy and sell, well, there there’s a cost, and the design of the stock exchange affects the trad­ing costs. There’s bil­lions and bil­lions and bil­lions of dol­lars trad­ing costs and that’s income to the finance com­pa­ny there, so it’s an impor­tant invest­ment. Small investors do not pay much atten­tion there, but it is impor­tant aspect.

And late­ly I have inter­ests in a polit­i­cal con­nec­tion, pol­i­tics and finance. In my last paper, I’ve looked at the effect of a pres­i­den­tial pow­er on the stock return of the com­pa­ny. When a pres­i­dent is a very pow­er­ful ver­sus a weak pres­i­dent, does it affect the stock return? That’s the kind of thing I am inter­est­ed in these days — pol­i­tics and finance.

What inter­est­ed you in finance as an area for your career and for your research?

I was a banker for a few years. I was a mid­dle man­ag­er and at that time I liked my job and pay was good. After a few years as a banker, I felt some­thing lack­ing and I want­ed to do some­thing just for myself. I think at the back of mind doing a PhD was there all along, so I made a career-chang­ing deci­sion. I went to a PhD pro­gram, and that’s a start of my new career, and here I am. I don’t have any regret in pur­su­ing this line of voca­tion– it suits me.

Youngsoo Kim sits on a bench outside on a sunny day.

Young­soo Kim dur­ing his last sab­bat­i­cal in Welling­ton, New Zealand. Pho­to pro­vid­ed by Young­soo Kim.

What do you enjoy most about your cur­rent career?

One is I choose to work on the top­ics that I find inter­est­ing. That’s a lux­u­ry of hav­ing tenure. Before tenure, you have to pro­duce a cer­tain num­ber [of arti­cles] so you don’t have lux­u­ry — the pub­li­ca­tion is a top priority.

And then, well, I like sabbatical.

Is there some­thing that sur­pris­es your stu­dents about the mate­ri­als that you cov­er in your cours­es or with the research that you do?

We don’t have a grad­u­ate schools and under­grad stu­dents real­ly are not famil­iar with the research work I’m doing, but the feel­ing I got in the class­room is that they learn the finance is quite rig­or­ous and abstract. I think that that’s a lot dif­fer­ent from what they have expect­ed. Finance is a sub-field of eco­nom­ics so in gen­er­al, the approach­es are quite math­e­mat­i­cal, for­mal, mod­el-ori­ent­ed and we need to back up the result with very strong math­e­mat­i­cal and sta­tis­ti­cal rigour. 

We use a lot of math­e­mat­ics and math­e­mat­ics is quite abstract. You need to sit down and spend a lot of time think­ing. And so, I think stu­dents haven’t expect­ed that finance could be that rig­or­ous. It requires a lot of sta­tis­tics and then some mathematics.

Is there any advice that you have for URFA mem­bers who are look­ing to get more involved with URFA?

Con­sid­er join­ing URFA. We have a lot of com­mit­tees so they can be a mem­ber and if they find it inter­est­ing, they can be a mem­ber of the stand­ing committee.

I have anoth­er thing for that mat­ter — you know there are some pro­fes­sors who aspire to be an admin­is­tra­tor at the uni­ver­si­ty. Even for those peo­ple, I think the expe­ri­ence with URFA is very use­ful for them because they can have a bet­ter per­spec­tive. They can under­stand bet­ter what the union mem­bers’ con­cerns are and it will make them more effec­tive and a bet­ter man­ag­er once they decide to go for that route.

This inter­view has been con­densed and edited.

Enjoy read­ing Q&As with URFA members?

Read our pre­vi­ous Q&A with Claire Carter, URFA Equi­ty Com­mit­tee Chair.