March 23

Finance Conference Climbs Higher

Slot canyons, river rafting, and . . . finance research papers?

BYU’s Red Rock Conference is classified as one of the premier finance conferences in the United States. Attracting leading professors from top universities from coast to coast, the three-day symposium in the heart of southern Utah has become world-renowned among the academic finance elite.

Fueled by a desire to create a nationally competitive conference, BYU finance professor Keith Vorkink and University of Michigan finance professor Tyler Shumway came together eight years ago to ideate their dream. They brought on BYU finance professors Brian Boyer and Karl Diether and after gaining approval from the directors of BYU’s finance department, their wish was granted. In September 2012, the Red Rock Conference was born. Four years later, the seminar has become one of the most respected in the industry, ranking second in the world for highest percentage of papers published in peer-reviewed academic journals.

“In the publications game, you want to get your papers to the best conferences before you submit them to journals,” Vorkink says. “We put together this team of legitimately high-ranking people. To have a paper looked at by this lineup and to get their feedback and comments is extraordinary.”

Over 300 submissions come in for ten presentation slots: an acceptance rate of about 3 percent, which indicates the high demand among academics to be at the conference.

Boyer, Diether, and Vorkink look to the best in the industry to lead the conference each year and credit its success to its influential past conference chairs. UCLA professor and respected finance scholar Francis Longstaff chaired the first conference. Professors from Duke, Columbia, and Harvard have also served as chairs.

“Chairing the Red Rock conference was a delightful experience,” says Harvard professor and 2016 conference chair John Campbell. “The BYU team has a smoothly operating system in place so the chair can focus on the research. The conference has a good reputation as a place to exchange ideas with creative researchers in an intimate setting, so the submissions are high quality.”

Thanks to the conference, both BYU students and professors have gained greater visibility in the finance disipline. Students who attend the conference mingle with scholars who help them as they apply to PhD programs while BYU professors develop their community and gain notoriety as they present their research.

“It’s been gratifying to see our professors perform well in that setting, and then you can see how their reputation and their recognition as an academic grow because of that experience,” Vorkink says. “That helps them build their network and become a more recognized academic.”

To top it all off, participants also spend time enjoying the many activities offered near Zion National Park, including the world-famous arches, canyons, and hikes in the area.

“The Red Rock Conference has developed a bit of a following among members of the academic community that enjoy both discussing the latest research and engaging in outdoor activities together,” says Shumway. “Many people have been inspired by the canyons and mountains of Zion National Park and the great conversations with leading researchers from around the world.  The Red Rock Conference is unique, and it has developed a reputation for featuring very high quality speakers and excellent opportunities for participants to interact in a beautiful place.”

Conference-goers spend each afternoon touring the parks and enjoying recreational activities together. Each night, they gather for more discussions against the backdrop of Watchman’s Tower in Zion National Park.

“We get these great people there and we go hiking with them or go down a slot canyon with them and we build friendships that we couldn’t build any other way,” Vorkink says.