The irrationality of human behaviour in the Finance world

A career in MBA Finance is one of the lucrative and sought-after opportunities in the business world. But the irony in India is that when we go back into a student’s education journey, commerce subject which deals with all the basic nuances of finance & accounting is still not preferred as the desired subject as compared with science stream.

We often tend to confuse Finance with just accounting and calculations. But, the application of real finance is not just about numbers and calculations. It’s much more beyond that. It requires you to have: 

  • Strong calculative abilities of Commerce
  •  Analytical thinking process of Science 
  •  And behavioral understanding of Humanities 

This third aspect of finance which is been ignored for decades but recently is becoming one of the hot topics for researchers. Due to the complexity and irrationality of human behaviour, it becomes difficult to take this factor into consideration for organized analysis. But this factor builds up the basis of most of the previous innovations in finance. Behavioural finance is like salvation to mathematical finance just like Friction is to Newton’s forces. For example, the birth of one of the major financial instruments in history is Insurance which is a result of irrational human behaviour explained by Kahneman and Tversky in terms of Prospect Theory.

When the fear of loss and uncertainties prevail, insurances emerged as a strong instrument for risk management. Thus, encouraging people to take risks and invest, leading to an increase in the liquidity of markets. It clearly explains human behaviour in cases of profits and losses.

Prospect Theory of Finances

The Prospect Theory graph clearly depicts that when we lose Rs. 100, our pain would be much more in comparison to the happiness in gaining Rs. 100. Thus, the magnitude of happiness and pain doesn’t vary linearly with the amount of money.

On the basis of this human behaviour, insurance policies proved to be very successful in monetizing the irrationality of human behaviour. There are various other such phenomena in human behaviour like social contagion, cognitive dissonance, anchoring, overconfidence, etc. which answer the events like the randomness of the stock market, people’s decisions and other such cases of the finance world.

Out of the 74% literacy rate in India, only 24% have finance literacy which is one of the major factors responsible for the economy of any nation. When people lack the ability to manage their own personal finances, how can we expect a nation to have a strong economy? Many people are still unaware of the power of compounding, time value of money, credit opportunities, etc. to make use of it for their improvement of financial status. Thus, it becomes very necessary for financial managers, strategists, and policymakers to discover innovative ways to bridge this gap. It is high time that we move away from the narrow approaches of finance and introduce new frameworks in the correlation between accounting and behavioural finance which will include markets, people and their behaviour.

There lies a lot of opportunities in the domain of financial risk management using behavioural finance. Though the implication of this concept has various challenges due to randomness and complexity yet it can be accomplished when the researchers and corporate leaders will work together in the right direction. We are heading towards a more complex world where simple answers are not suitable anymore. We will have to develop an ecosystem to sustain and grow in future.

One can refer to works of researchers like Professor Robert Shiller, Daniel Crosby, Kahneman and Tversky, etc for more understanding on the subject and topic of behavioural finance. This is a potential field waiting to get explored to its core. A lot of new developments can be seen in this direction in the upcoming time.

Raksha Agrawal (MBA Batch 2020–22)

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