Over the last few years, Emerald has steadily increased the number of finance and accounting titles in its portfolio, in order to provide a broad and comprehensive range of journals in all major areas of the discipline. International Journal of Managerial Finance (IJMF) is one such, and was started three years ago in 2005, in order to provide a focus for research in financial decision-making, and it welcomes papers in any discipline which contribute to understanding this topic.
David Michayluk is an associate professor in the School of Finance and Economics at the University of Technology, Sydney. He was previously at the University of Rhode Island in the USA. He is a Canadian chartered accountant and has researched extensively in finance, particularly corporate finance and market microstructure issues in international financial markets.
Ralf Zurbruegg is a professor at the School of Commerce at the University of Adelaide. He is also a director of an equity ranking company and has consulted extensively for both the private and public sector on risk management issues, as well as published in leading academic finance journals on the subject. He is featured in this interview.
Why did you launch this journal and what is its mission?
We were approached by Emerald. My co-editor and I both had a background in international finance, and we also had an international frame in that I myself have been teaching and researching at various universities around the world, as has David, so we were able to put together a very international editorial board, made up of established professors representing many different countries. We were interested to look at a journal where there hadn’t been a publishing medium with that particular focus.
So why do you think that they particularly wanted a journal around managerial finance at this time?
I don’t think it was so much managerial finance as it was for looking at the international context. Managerial finance is really a very broad term, focusing on how managers come to a decision-making process for managing their money internally within a firm, how that has an impact on investors, and where they place their money, for instance in the share market. There wasn’t and probably still isn’t a focus on issues that might affect companies from around the world, so it’s more looking for an international flavour than anything else.
In your first issue, you are quite specific about the type of research that you wish to publish. Can you summarize here what you are looking for?
I think that the editorial introduction that myself and David did was very good at summing up what the journal is about and what it has turned out to be, so we are very happy with that. We mainly look at the decision-making process from a broad spectrum of disciplines. Obviously we take papers that don’t necessarily fit that exact description, but for the most part it explains well the scope and focus of what our journal has turned out to be. So, that editorial introduction would be a good starting point for anyone considering contributing to the journal, whether it being from accounting, economics, management or a pure finance perspective.
Can you define your audience: what academic disciplines are your readers and writers from, and what professional backgrounds, and how do you see the mix of academic and professional?
I would assume, and this is very difficult to substantiate because I don’t have any hard core facts to back it up, that about 80 per cent of our readership would be academics and 20 per cent would be professional. The 80 per cent academics would be primarily drawn from the finance disciplines, although having said that, there’s a lot of interaction between accountants, economists, and corporate governance academics. Interest might also come from management academics, but in the main it would be those who are interested in finance decisions.
You state that "managerial finance is at the crossroads between theory and practice". How do you ensure that you remain relevant to practitioners?
In a number of ways. Firstly, we do publish papers that don’t necessarily always fit into the pure academic genre, which are more practitioner oriented. Second, we have had submissions from practitioners and we have sought out practitioners that are involved in research both as contributors and referees. Third, we are planning, probably in the next six months, to launch a special issue which will be directed towards practitioners. So we try and encourage their readership by ensuring that we stay in touch with practitioners, primarily by letting them publish in our journal, also giving them some feedback in our editorial processes, so that we know what they are interested in reading.
What plans do you have for the next few years, for example special issues?
Our first priority is quality. We are very pleased that we have always had a high number of submissions – even in the first year, we touched over 100 papers. I see the way to success as being, in the fiercely competitive academic journals market, through publishing high quality work, and limiting the number of papers, so that we go for quality rather than quantity. We’ve seen a year on year increase in quality, and we now accept only about 20 per cent of submissions. I would like to see the number of papers per issue as staying at between four and six, with four issues a year.
The key to success is citations. This takes time to build up, but it’s crucial and some journals have seen a dramatic increase in circulation after they have been ISI listed. So, we definitely want to go for ISI listing eventually.
Our second priority is to continue to sponsor a number of awards at conferences. For the past few years we’ve had close links with the Northern Finance Association, who organize a large finance academic annual gathering in North America, and we sponsor the best paper award there. Also for the past couple of years we’ve sponsored a best paper award in corporate governance for the British Academy of Management. We want to increase awareness of our journal, but we are also interested in good quality papers even if they don’t necessarily publish in our journal, as a way of increasing research quality in the area.
How would you define managerial finance?
It’s a very hard question to answer because people have different opinions as to what exactly managerial finance is about. What we focus on is the decision-making process of the firm, and how that might impact on the investor, and also the managers themselves. That encompasses a lot of what finance focuses on. I don’t think managerial finance necessarily lacks research focus.
If you spoke to any academic in the area and asked them for a definition of managerial finance they would come up with a broad statement. That is a plus for us, as our journal is relatively broad. But that does not mean it lacks research focus. It sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but really managerial finance is the study of how firms raise capital and also how investors view firms by the means they raise capital, and at various aspects of how companies run their business. Managerial finance encompasses all those decisions and therefore the research in this area usually has practical implications for managers and is not merely reporting on a phenomenon.
How does IJMF differ from other journals in the field?
There are several journals in the field with very similar titles – Financial Management, Multinational Financial Management, for example – but a different focus. For instance, the Journal for Multinational Financial Management focuses on how multinational companies manage their finances.
How did you both become interested in managerial finance?
Both David and I have always been researching in the area of finance, and managerial finance forms a large part of that. David also comes from a chartered accounting background where much of his analysis was focused on managerial implications.
You have both moved to Australia from elsewhere. What prompted you to move to an Australian university?
Many academics travel round the world, for example I was initially based in the UK, then I moved to Australia; David, started off as an accountant in Canada, obtained a PhD in the US and has alternated between living in Australia and the US. He credits the research environment and well balanced lifestyle for luring him back to Australia.
I suppose for me personally it’s less of a decision to move because of the discipline, more of a personal decision in terms of lifestyle and particularly the weather. I lived in Manchester for quite a few years and I enjoy Australia, it’s got a nice climate and great wine.
And what about the universities? In the UK, the he press is full of the stresses of university life. How is university life in Australia?
That’s a very good question. I speak from personal experience, and I have to be careful what I say here. When I first moved to Australia, in general the Australian academic lifestyle and resources were better than the UK. However, over the last six to seven years, it’s possibly switched around a bit, salaries in the UK are a bit better at the moment, although they are still competitive here in Australia. More importantly, we have adopted a lot of the systems that the UK has now had, for instance, we’ve got a Research Quality Framework whereby our universities are assessed for the quality of research output. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does increase the administrative pressure and I think that a lot of people are feeling that there’s a lot more paperwork than before.
How do you ensure timely dissemination of the research you publish?
The way that we do it, or at least try to do it, is to ensure that we have a relatively fast turnaround time from submission to decision to publish. Unfortunately we have a few that get through the loop, but we do try to have an average time-span of about three to four months, and once we have decided, we usually have less than a year to actual publication.
So, on decision-making, one of the most difficult things is on peer review. How do you speed up your peer reviewers?
We’ve got a system in place now that’s taken a while to formulate but works relatively smoothly, everything’s done via electronic media: we communicate and accept papers only via email. We have a system of ad hoc reviewers, and we give them a couple of months to get back to us with a report, and we have an automated signalling system so that missed deadlines are noted. We promptly email them again to say, sorry, we are still waiting for your review, can you please provide it, and if we still don’t have a response within the next 30 days, we assume that we are not going to receive a review, and call upon one of our advisory board members to replace the review of the ad hoc member. Our advisory board members are chosen because they are diligent and will provide a review with a faster turnaround than the typical ad hoc reviewer. So that give us some control over knowing we are going to receive a review within a certain time frame.
As editors of a relatively new journal, what do you see journals as being "for" in the era of digital scholarly communication, when people are more likely to be looking for a particular topic and perhaps less "loyal" to a journal?
I think that journals play a very important role, more than ever before, when you have a whole lot of information, and if you are a researcher, and you are trying to work out what information you should and shouldn’t use, what it’s going to come down to is quality assurance, and reputation. That is what journals are based upon, and that’s why our journal focuses a lot on the reputation it has and assuring that we grow into a journal that is known for publishing very good pieces of work. In our case, not only do you have reviewers but also the editors, myself and David, will go through each paper before it is allowed to be published. So that provides some quality assurance – people know that it’s not just made up but that considerable thought has gone into it.
What some journals are doing is providing added value in the form of the primary data on which the article is based, and I think that’s a very good move, helping with verification. I believe that the Journal of Applied Econometrics is very proactive in ensuring that for anything that is published in that journal, you can go online and download the programs and the data that were used behind the paper.
Having said all that, I still think that one benefit of having journals in print is that you are sure of having papers of a certain length, because authors have to be very precise in how they write. The other problem with proprietary information is that authors may have done some research using particular data that they are not allowed to advertise, or they cannot make available for other people, so there are limitations on how much other papers that are published can share data and information.
David Michayluk and Ralf Zurbruegg were interviewed in July 2007.
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