Faculty spotlight: Simon Peck, assistant professor, management policy
Weatherheadlines recently sat down with Simon Peck, assistant professor of management policy to learn more about his research into corporate governance, his love of soccer, and his wish to meet Elvis.
Q: From where do you originally hail? From which school(s) was your degree awarded?
I was born and raised in Southampton, England. My degrees are from the Universities of Warwick and Leeds in the U.K.
Q: What brought you to the Weatherhead School?
Quite simply, the job. Friends from home over here convinced me that being a young(ish) academic in the U.S. is better than being a young(ish) academic in Europe. I've worked at some good schools in Europe, but saw the job here advertised on the industry Web site and this was really the only position for which I applied. I visited and gave a talk, interview, and had a nice dinner with Vasu Ramanujam and Sayan Chatterjee, and the rest is history…. I think it's fair to say that I didn’t know a lot about the school, or Cleveland before then, but my friend, Rob Grant, at Georgetown University gave it the thumbs up. That said, he’d never actually been to Cleveland before either…!
Q: How long have you been a professor at the Weatherhead School?
I joined the school in July 2003.
Q: What classes do you currently teach?
I currently teach the core M.B.A. strategy classes, Strategic Issues and Applications, for the part- and full-time programs. It’s nice because I have contact with all the full-timers and a number of part-timers. I also do an elective with Jean Kilgore on the E.M.B.A. program on corporate governance matters. The undergraduate program has got off lucky thus far!
Q: In addition to teaching, I understand you do a fair amount of research. Would you please tell us a bit about your current research?
Fundamentally I’m interested in what happens on boards of directors, and the relationships between boards and stockholders, especially with issues relating to the compensation of executives. The project that has taken up most of my time recently has been working with another ex-pat, Martin Conyon, at the University of Pennsylvania, looking at the executive compensation consulting industry, and to (statistically) look for its effects -- namely, are these consultants on the side of the angels (owners), or do they just curry favor with management?
Q: How did you first become interested in this topic?
Executive compensation is increasingly in the public eye, and despite more attention, there’s still a sense that it can’t be explained. Intellectually, I guess I like the puzzles that arise from the fact that in most organizations, your actions, compensation, performance etc. are set and monitored by a boss; what happens when you get to the top of the tree and run out of bosses?
Q: At what stage in the research process are you?
At any point in time, you’re finishing some projects, starting others, and in the messy middle bits with the rest.
Q: What are your key findings thus far?
Well, taking the above project for instance, one of the findings that has attracted attention is that CEO compensation is statistically greater in companies where the consultant also provides other services to the firm, such as other human resource or general strategy consulting. Corporate governance activists have jumped on that and suggested that this seemingly obvious conflict of interests should be stopped.
Q: In your opinion, how does your research most benefit Cleveland and the surrounding Northeast Ohio region?
I’m not sure that work does directly, and given I’ve done similar work on corporate governance focusing on the U.K., Germany, France, Switzerland, Japan and even China, any benefits arise from taking this comparative, international perspective on the issue.
However, another project I’m working on has involved looking at the process of strategy making before its hits the board, and that has involved going into a number of large local companies and talking to directors of strategy. I like to think that work has more obvious direct payoffs, and it’s nice to get out of the office…!
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a big soccer fan, and supporting the Southampton Football Club has prepared me well for the sporting disaster zone that is Cleveland. I can play a bit, too, and we had a team here at Weatherhead a while ago that I played on (that was pretty good, but only because we had a couple of very handy Latin American lads to do my running and skillful stuff). I got the skiing bug when I lived in Switzerland. I also enjoy watching bands and it's always fun when quite big groups from the U.K. tour over here and end up playing in venues the size of your front room!
Q: If you could invite any famous person/celebrity (living or dead) to dinner, who would it be and why?
Elvis Presley -- for singing lessons. But, definitely towards the end -- the fat Elvis era -- when he was belting out the classics. I’m not sure he’d be happy to come 'round though as I don’t eat meat, including squirrels. And don’t really like dessert either. Mealtimes are fun around at mine….
Q: What is a surprising fact about you that you would like to share with the Weatherhead community?
I used to coach a female soccer team at the University of Leeds. Pretty successful -- I think I missed my calling!