Interview with Joe Wiggins

Behavioural Science is a rapidly expanding field and everyday new research is being developed in academia, tested and implemented by practitioners in financial organisation, development agencies, government ‘nudge’ units and more. This interview is part of a series interviewing prominent people in the field. And in today's interview the answers are provided by Joe Wiggins. Joe has worked in the asset management industry since 2004, and is currently employed as Director of Liquid Markets at a major asset owner. He has an undergraduate degree in Sociology and, in 2016, completed an MSc in Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics, for which he was awarded the Brian Abel-Smith Prize for outstanding performance. Since 2017 he has written the blog, which focuses on all aspects of investor behaviour and decision making.


Who or what got you into behavioural science?

I have always been fascinated by people. I studied Sociology as an undergraduate, not because I had a particular career in mind (I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life) but because I was interested in the subject. I then fell into a career in investment management because that was the job I happened to get from the broad array I applied for (in a parallel universe I am probably a copywriter for an ad agency).

Working in investment and having a degree in Sociology I was something of an oddity. Whenever it was mentioned it was treated with disdain – “why are you worrying about people, when you should be thinking about economic models? Shouldn’t you be a social worker?” But actually, it was incredibly helpful. It allowed me to view the world through an entirely different lens to most other people.

The gap between behavioural science and sociology is narrow. One is focused on individual behaviour and the other the behaviour of groups, there is a huge amount of crossover.Knowledge of both subjects is essential to understanding financial markets, which at their core are about the decisions of individuals and groups.

The first person I read who directly linked behavioural science / psychology with investment was someone called James Montier. He was an investment strategist who focused on behaviour and often the reasons why investors made terrible decisions. His work shone out like a beacon from the standard investment fare, which is typically people failing to forecast financial markets.

As my attempts to apply behavioural concepts to my day job developed, I decided to pursue some more formal qualifications. So, I took a Master’s Degree in Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics, which was a relatively rare course at the time.

Shortly after completing that I started my blog.

What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a behavioural scientist? And what do you still want to achieve?

I think it is my blog. I see the purpose of it as twofold. To help me think through ideas (I find writing really useful for this) and to help people make better investment decisions. The cost of behavioural mistakes in investing is huge and can have profound implications for peoples’ lives. If I can reduce these in some small way I would be delighted.

If you weren’t a behavioural scientist, what would you be doing?

I would say that if I wasn’t working in investment, I would be a behavioural scientist!

How do you apply behavioural science in your personal life?

It is usually in my hapless attempts at good parenting. I actually experienced a great example of behavioural concepts being played out in everyday life recently.

My son, who is ten years old, had a football match. His coach put GPS trackers on all of the players to monitor how far they had run during the match.