When Ritesh Shinde ’18 entered his sophomore year at Cornell, he felt the need to extend his academic pursuits beyond the classroom. An Applied Economics and Management (AEM) major, he sought out his faculty adviser, Eswar Prasad, The Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, regarding business professors with whom to collaborate. Shinde knew that competition for undergraduate research positions at Cornell was strong. The best research positions were often filled by upperclassmen. Coincidentally, Prasad had begun assembling a student team for his next book and had a vacancy.
Now, when he reflects on these events after having worked with Prasad for more than a year, Shinde is glad he took the position. “I have a keen interest in economics, but the rigors of my core AEM classes meant I never had the time to take economics courses. The chance to assist Professor Prasad was ideal. It meant I could incorporate economics into my schedule without falling behind in my major.”
The Chinese Renminbi and Global Markets
Prasad’s new book Gaining Currency: The Rise of the Renminbi explains the role of the Chinese currency in reshaping global economics. Prasad argues that, despite its increased prominence in global markets, the renminbi will be held back by incoherence in the Chinese socio-political structure, thus preventing it from supplanting the United States dollar on a long-term basis.
“Working with the professor taught me to engage with global markets from a far broader perspective than I was previously used to,” Shinde remarks. “Applied economics and business classes have conveyed the value of specific concepts to me, but my research showed me that an incredible number of events, from political scenarios to environmental hazards, can significantly affect financial issues. Perhaps the best way, then, is to make projections while remaining aware of the fragile base that we build our assumptions on,” he explains.
Shinde’s work comprised extensive research on wide-ranging topics, as specified by the professor. The tasks, on occasion, were incredibly taxing. One of the more difficult ones was the search for Chinese renminbi in other countries’ federal reserves.
“Because most countries don’t release the composition of their federal reserves, I would analyze speeches given by their economic policymakers and chief strategists, searching for hints that the country was holding renminbi.” Sometimes, he says, it felt like he was grasping at straws; there was no way to affirm his findings. The analytical process, however, was a positive takeaway. “The level of attention to detail needed at times was something I’d never employed during my regular courses. I can’t complain too much, though. The experience I’ve acquired has definitely outweighed the negatives.”
Researching Global Markets, an Immediately Rewarding Experience
Shinde’s favorite research experience was evaluating major economists’ opinion on future global markets. “Predictably, most economists projected India and China as the two emerging leaders over the next several decades,” he notes, “but there are fascinating disagreements over the United States’ role in the new financial order. Although many predict the dollar’s downfall, a school of thought which includes Prasad, contends that the American Federal Reserves’ flexibility allows the dollar to adapt to changing scenarios.” This kind of research, he says, is exactly what he sought while applying to Cornell. “We have some of the best minds in their fields working here. I’m amazed by the fact that I’ve worked with someone who has collaborated with Federal Reserve chairmen in the past.”
“I applied for an internship in the sales and trading division [JPMorgan Chase]…my knowledge of the renminbi gave me an edge…The interviewers were impressed with my understanding of international markets. I received an offer the next day.”
Despite the immense takeaways for him, Shinde insists that the engagement has not been one-sided. It occasionally became difficult for the professor to gauge his target audience’s level of understanding. “Professor Prasad would often seek my inputs as someone with a general interest in economics. His researchers’ perceptions shaped his writing on several issues in the book. He required that we be frank in our assessment, and we’d often discuss potential issues with the way his ideas were developed in the book.” The professor’s willingness to engage with his researchers surprised Shinde. “It makes you feel appreciated. While I definitely benefited from my engagement with Professor Prasad, my confidence also grew because of the trust he placed in my opinions.”
This engagement, Shinde remarks, was the kind of experience for which he’d been searching. “I saw the benefits of my research work firsthand during an interview at JPMorgan Chase over the summer. I applied for an internship in the sales and trading division, and my knowledge of the renminbi gave me an edge over other applicants. The interviewers were impressed with my understanding of international markets. I received an offer the next day.”
Shinde plans to finish his undergraduate degree a semester early and work in different banking divisions before pursuing an MBA. The bond he has developed with Prasad means he will certainly seek his advice again in the future. “I view him as my mentor, even beyond strictly academic matters, and the skills I’ve acquired while working with him will definitely come in handy beyond Cornell.”