Laurence Crook is an Associate Director specialising in Regulatory Finance in the Economics team at KPMG UK.
Why did you choose to study economics?
I’ve always been fascinated by how companies actually make money. I remember looking at souvenir shops in Leicester Square as a teenager and trying to work out how they were profitable when nearby restaurants were failing. Economics provides a toolkit with which you can start to unpick these questions and start to answer them.
How would you describe economics?
Economics attempts to describe human decision making, primarily through mathematical models. This is made much harder by the fact that humans are complex, irrational beings, and that the data necessary to build these models is full of noise, if it exists at all. The challenges of dealing with this complexity, and the relative infancy of Economics as a subject, means that there remains a lot of uncertainty and many problems yet to be solved.
If you had a time machine and could meet your 16-year-old self, what advice would you give them?
The world is much more complex than we give it credit for, and many of the things that you see as black and white issues are much more complex than that. Be kinder to other people, because for every failing you see in them, there’ll be something else that you’re guilty of. And get a haircut.
What is your favourite part of economics?
Microeconomics focusing on public policy and regulation. The job of regulators is incredibly hard, and it’s easy to point to failings in specific areas. However, in many sectors, the market failures that exist without effective regulation are so great that, imperfect as it is, it still has a huge positive impact. I enjoy the challenges of applying economic theory to actual real life regulatory decisions, and I believe strongly in the positive impact that this can have on market outcomes.
Is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance?
I’m a firm believer in not agonising over past decisions, other than to change future behaviour. For every ‘oh I really should have done that’, there’s plenty of bad choices that were avoided. Mind you, in 2010 I came up with a plan to buy a lot of Zimbabwean $100 trillion dollar notes at around £1 each, thinking they’d have strong scarcity value as the highest denomination banknote ever. I didn’t do it, and they’re now worth over £150. Let’s just assume I’d have sold early and not taken the full gain anyway.