Oct. 14, 2020Print | PDF
On Monday, July 27 Olga Kanj successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, Risk Management of Insurance Companies at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University. The Lazaridis School would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Kanj for achieving this milestone in her career.
Kanj earned her BBA in Banking and Finance and MBA in Finance and Economics from Notre Dame University – Louaize before coming to the PhD program at Laurier to further study Financial Economics.
“My dissertation covers two critical issues: ethnic diversity and climate change from the perspective of risk management of insurance companies,” said Kanj. “I study how ethnic diversity and the origin of decision-makers affect risk related decisions in insurance companies on one hand and on the other hand I study the pricing of catastrophe bonds which are used by insurance companies to mitigate the losses from natural catastrophes.”
Kanj’s dissertation achieved this through three essays. The first examines the impact of board diversity on firms’ risk-taking strategies using Canadian P/C insurance companies. The findings show that board ethnic diversity significantly decreases company risk as measured by reinsurance, asset risk and leverage risk. The findings also show that board ethnic diversity improves company performance.
The second essay evaluates whether the personal background of decision-makers affects accounting estimates. Using cultural origin and gender of actuaries and CEOs as proxy of personal background, the results show evidence that the cultural origin of actuaries, but not CEOs are significantly associated with the accuracy of loss reserves.
The third essay studies the time variation of the market price of catastrophe bonds. Despite an overall decreasing trend, large catastrophes increase the price, although is not seen to be related to investors’ perceptions.
In her continuing research, Kanj is studying the effects of ethnic diversity on other aspects of business decisions such as CEO compensation and investment in technology. Additionally, her research extends to look at the benefits of catastrophe bonds and the corporate culture of InsurTechs. Her research interests surround issues of diversity, innovation and risk management affecting both businesses and society alike.
“Along my PhD journey, I’ve learned so much from faculty members who were always open to discuss research ideas and answer questions. The PhD office was also a great resource and support - encouraging my development as a scholar and making sure my program was progressing well,” said Kanj.
After working on research with associate professor Fabricio Perez and professor Peter Carayannopoulos, Kanj’s interests were driven towards insurance and risk management and she was connected with professor Mary Kelly, Chair in Insurance, who became her PhD advisor. Kanj credits this kind of support and mentorship for developing her passion within the academic community of insurance and risk management. “She is the best advisor and mentor – she understood the challenges I faced and helped find solutions. She encouraged my hard work and celebrated my achievements, which helped keep me motivated during hard times.”
Kanj’s committee was chaired by associate professor Tristan Long from Laurier’s Faculty of Science who was accompanied by Kanj’s advisor, professor Mary Kelly, along with associate professors Fabricio Perez and Si Li of the Lazaridis School, associate professor of History, David Smith and associate professor Andre Liebenberg of the University of Mississippi.
“Completing my PhD is the stepping stone towards my ultimate goal of becoming a member of the academic community,” said Kanj. “Producing knowledge through my research about key issues facing our businesses and societies in hope that my research would bring improvements and benefits to them. Additionally, this will allow me to mentor and contribute to building the views of graduating students who will reflect this knowledge in their future careers and decisions.”