Max Hewitt, Associate Professor of Accounting
Aug. 17, 2018
Six Questions with Max Hewitt
Teaching allows me to think more deeply about the challenges that people face when processing financial information, as well as think carefully about the purpose of accounting, especially in the broader business environment.
What brought you to the Eller College in 2015?
I was attracted to Eller because of its international reputation for excellence in business research and outstanding, cutting-edge programs.
What is your current research, and what most excites you about that area of focus?
My research looks at how different people use financial information. Specifically, much of my research shows that all types of investors are prone to common mistakes when looking through a company’s financial statements. For example, many investors–ranging from retails investors to Wall Street analysts–look myopically at the “bottom line” of the income statement (i.e., earnings) and miss many key messages presented elsewhere in the financial statements. My research using experiments highlights how and when investors fail to pay attention to key financial information. Using large databases of financial information, this research then allows me to examine whether knowledgeable investors can develop profitable trading strategies to capitalize on others’ mistakes.
My related research looks at how the people setting the accounting rules might limit the opportunities for companies to hide key information in their financial statements by requiring companies to present their financial statements in ways to help investors understand more of the presented information. I feel that challenging these issues becomes increasingly important as today’s investors face vast amounts of information, yet are arguably more time-constrained than ever.
What are you currently teaching, and what do you most enjoy about teaching?
I teach accounting courses in the undergraduate, MBA, and doctoral programs at Eller. I love having the opportunity to help students grow at different stages of their experience with accounting. Teaching allows me to think more deeply about the challenges that people face when processing financial information, as well as think carefully about the purpose of accounting, especially in the broader business environment. Teaching provides me the chance to see accounting through the eyes of many extremely gifted and hardworking people each year. In turn, this enables me to learn more about a subject I care deeply about.
How do you bring your research into your teaching?
I am fortunate that both research and teaching often require me to think carefully about similar problems. As my research interests involve examining the challenges faced by investors when processing financial information, attempting to empathize with students learning accounting requires me to also think about the barriers people face when processing financial information. Much of my pedagogical approach is based on tackling challenging topics in accounting head on by identifying the source of students’ fundamental struggles with these topics. My research often engages me in a similar process when identifying areas where investors can improve their forecasts and trading decisions.
Beyond research and teaching, what are your passions?
I am a huge sports fan. Aside from the Arizona Wildcats, I love watching soccer (Chelsea Football Club) and cricket. Due to now living in a very different time zone than that of my first home in Sydney, Australia, many mornings start with me nervously checking the score of a cricket match involving Australia. I also really enjoy traveling all over the world. I also consider myself extremely fortunate to live in one of the world’s most beautiful natural environments and I truly love hiking around different parts of Arizona.
What does the Eller Experience mean to you?
I think that the Eller Experience is all about community to me. Eller is genuinely a community of great people (staff, students, faculty) that come together to create a wonderful environment to learn and work. What differentiates Eller are the synergies that stem from a group of very talented people selflessly working together. Eller is really a place where people look out for one another and try to make those around them better.