A Family Legacy in Finance

Gayané Hovakimian, PhD
Gayané Hovakimian, PhD
Gayané Hovakimian’s interest in finance began around the family dinner table. Her parents were both economists, and their conversations about Western economies versus theirs in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia sparked her curiosity.

“It was obvious that the centrally-planned economies where everybody ‘owned’ everything, or effectively, nobody really owned anything, were failing, and there was this gigantic economy-wide, agency problem,” Hovakimian said. “At the same time, the other extreme, where some people own everything and the rest are deprived, seemed unfair, too.”

That contrast, and possible solutions, fascinated her.

While she read every book she could get her hands on about economics, Hovakimian continued pursuing her passion for classical music throughout high school. An accomplished pianist, she said her love of music began early in her childhood— the first time she heard Chopin’s “Waltz in C-Sharp Minor.” “It was poetic, harmonious, melancholic, and intimate,” she said.

When it came time for college, Hovakimian faced the difficult decision of studying music or economics. Ultimately, her interest in finance won.

Hovakimian earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Yerevan Institute of Economics in Armenia. Once the Soviet Union fell, she applied for the Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship through the International Research and Exchanges Board. She was awarded the fellowship and, in 1992, traveled to the United States, where she earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California and a doctorate from Boston College.

Now an associate professor of finance at the Gabelli School of Business, Hovakimian recently celebrated her 20th year at Fordham University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in corporate finance and international financial management and investments.

Her research, which focuses on financial constraints, investments, and capital allocation, has been published in several leading journals, including the Journal of Financial Intermediation, Financial Management, and the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking.

Hovakimian is currently investigating corporate governance and compensation, topics that are especially relevant today. Long-term economic and financial viability are not attainable without ethical business practices, she said, and those require good corporate governance.

“Corporate governance has always been relevant in all spheres of our lives, except that we have started to realize how important good governance is and how important it is to pick the right people and give them the right incentives,” she said.

After two decades, Hovakimian estimates that thousands of students have passed through her classrooms over the years, and they continue to inspire her. Many have worked toward advanced degrees, while others have gone on to successful careers in the financial services industry. Nothing is more rewarding than hearing from former students and learning about where they are today.

“That just warms your heart in a way that nothing else does,” she said.

Hovakimian is carrying on the family legacy. Now, she enjoys good conversations around the dinner table with her husband, who is also an economics professor, and their two children.

—Jennifer Keeler