EPIC Spotlight: Scott Hsu

Scott Hsu loved watching American movies in his hometown of Taipei, Taiwan. He sought out as many Academy Award-winning films he could and fell in love with “The Sound of Music.” Then there was another one starring Michael Douglas, who played a greedy, ruthless stockbroker. “Wall Street” got Hsu curious about the business world.

“I thought it would be so cool to be part of Wall Street,” he says. “That, of course, was a fun motivation.”
Instead of going the greedy and ruthless route, Hsu indulged his fascination by pursuing degrees in economics and finance. He enrolled at National Taiwan University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance (and watched as many American films as he could). It was a fun coincidence when he was accepted as a graduate student at the University of Southern California, just miles away from Hollywood – and also where his commute to class would be rerouted because of the Academy Awards ceremony.

Years have passed, and dreams of Wall Street were set aside for dreams of teaching. As of August 2015, Hsu is assistant professor at the Walton College, where he joined the Department of Finance.

Hsu earned his Ph.D. in finance at the University of North Carolina and, following graduation, taught at Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

As a Ph.D. student in North Carolina, Hsu began to enjoy Southern Americana, from sweet tea to pulled pork. When an opportunity came to teach for Walton, he enjoyed the idea of returning to the South. When he visited the University of Arkansas, he was immediately impressed with all the amenities perfect for a business professor – and student – from locally based industries like J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., Walmart and Tyson Foods, Inc., to Walton’s outreach and research centers that represent almost every business discipline. He also enjoyed walking around the University of Arkansas campus.

“I was like, ‘Wow, there are a lot of good buildings,’” he says. “The whole area is booming.”

At Walton, Hsu finds his Walton colleagues supportive in everything from offering advice about his new position to sharing information about the area. He will teach the undergraduate courses Corporate Finance and International Finance in the spring, an experience he says often leads to him being taught as well. “Turns out, a lot of good ideas are from discussions with students,” he says.

One of Hsu’s ideas evolved into the working paper, “Beauty is Wealth: CEO Appearance and Shareholder Value,” which he co-authored, and was reported by several media outlets, including The New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, The Huffington Post and Bloomberg Business. “It’s a given that the face, or appearance, affects a lot of social outcomes,” Hsu says.

The same goes for the business world, Hsu discovered. While it may not be the main motivator to help a firm, having an attractive CEO could give it an edge, he says, adding that his findings show that the more attractive a person is, the more likely that person will negotiate better deals. Also, if a person has no knowledge of a company’s performance, the CEO’s appearance can be an influence as well.

Hsu is also researching the perceptions of politicians and their private equities and other topics with the Walton College providing the groundwork for him to flourish. “I’m part of the Walton family,” Hsu says.