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Zhi Zhi
Dr. rer. pol.


Stipend & Tuition Waiver

Granted to all successfull candidates

Programme Start

5 Years

Application Deadline
15 January

Finance Concentration

This concentration is one of the three concentrations offered in the Frankfurt School's Doctoral Programme.

We conduct scientific research projects, aiming at publishing them in top journals in the fields of asset pricing, corporate finance and financial intermediation. Frequently, these projects are pursued jointly with representatives of our stakeholders from the industry, the public and governments and actively involve our doctoral students.

The prerequisite for a successful participation in research projects is a thorough training in theoretical and empirical topics in the fields of asset pricing, corporate finance and financial intermediation. Currently, the finance concentration consists of core courses and electives taught by resident staff.

Internationally renowned guest professors in their respective fields of expertise complement the curriculum. Students who pursue a Doctoral in Finance at Frankfurt School have to complete the electives in addition to the required core courses.

Finance Seminars

Finance Curriculum

Mathematics & Statistics

Mathematics & Statistics

Calculus of Several Variables
Functions of Several Variables
Implicit Functions and Their Derivatives
Quadratic Forms and Definite Matrices
Unconstrained Optimization
Constrained Optimization
Concave and Quasiconcave Functions
Economic Applications
Eigenvalues and Eigenvectors
Advanced Linear Algebra
Advanced Analysis
Basic Probability and Statistics

Econometrics I

Econometrics I

The course introduces some of the most widely used quantitative models in the fields of economics, finance and management. It has a clear focus on applying the methods while not shying off on formal treatments. In particular, the course covers:

Statistical Concepts and Distributions

Asymptotic Limits and Estimators

Linear Models and Estimation

Instrumental Variables Estimation

Generalized Method of Moments

Panel Data



1. Demand Theory
2. Expected Utility Theory
3. General Equilibrium Theory
4. Non-Cooperative Game Theory
a) Dominant strategies and applications
b) Nash Equilibrium and applications
c) Subgame Perfect Equilibrium and applications
5. Principal-Agent Theory
6. The Theory of Incomplete Contracts

Asset Pricing Theory

Asset Pricing Theory

The course is an in-depth introduction to the modern theory of asset
pricing and portfolio choice. Its main focus is on the relationship between
arbitrage and equilibrium, and how both conditions imply the existence of
"state prices," positive discount factors such that the price of any security
is simply its discounted expected payoff.
The first part of the course examines static economies while the second
extends into a multi-period framework. Both parts are restricted to
discrete time and symmetric and complete information.



Students can choose up to two elective courses suitable for their chosen area of specialisation. These can be offered by Frankfurt School but often are found at other research universities. The faculty and the programme office help you identify the appropriate courses.


Econometrics II

Econometrics II

The class provides key knowledge on how different econometric models work and most importantly sheds light on their limitations. The course also provides step by step application of new tools to different data sets in the computer lab. You will be asked to replicate and in some cases improve, prior empirical studies.

Censored regression functions

Tobit regression

Estimators and sample selection bias

Median and qunatile regressons

Covariance matrices

Causal effects

Nonparametric regressions and intsrumental variables

Non-parametric regressions

Kernel regressions

Time series analysis

Unit root testig Integrated proecesses

Cointegration Introduction to machine learning

Game Theory

Game Theory

The course combines theoretical developments of game theoretic concepts with applications of these concepts to questions in economics, finance and management. The course starts with simple games and shows the solution concepts for these games (and potentially the problems of the concepts). It then gradually enriches the games and the respective solution concepts. For each class of games, several examples will be provided how to apply the material learned in the course, always with an eye on how students can apply these concepts in their own research. Finally, students will present recent of fundamental research papers that use and apply these concepts, thereby pointing out the usefulness (but also the potential problems) of these concepts in research in different fields

Causal Inference

Casual Inference

The course is structured in three parts (not necessarily chronological):

Part 1: Empirical methodologies (focus on regression discontinuity, difference-in-difference estimators, synthetic control estimators)

Part 2: Discussion of recent empirical papers with a focus on financial intermediation, corporate finance, and possibly with a link to accounting

Part 3: Development of own research ideas

Corporate Finance

Corporate Finance

The module introduces concise moral hazard and adverse selection models that allow analyzing major topics in corporate finance including among others firms’ debt capacity, the optimal capital structure, corporate risk and liquidity management. The module then discusses the role of banks in mitigating moral hazard and advserse selection in corporate finance, before moving on with a more general analysis of the role of banks in the financial system.

Empirical Asset Pricing

Empirical Asset Pricing

The objective of the course is twofold:

1) to familiarize students with the field of empirical asset pricing, i.e., to provide exposure to the seminal papers as well as the most important recent contributions; and

2) to teach students how to conduct, interpret and present empirical research. Accordingly, we will encounter a broad set of methodologies and datasets.


Accounting Information and Capital Markets

Industrial Organization 

This module provides an introduction to the key areas of financial
accounting research. It covers topics such as value relevance of
accounting information, accounting-based valuation, earnings
management, contracting and accounting, disclosure, text-as-data in
accounting, information intermediaries, real effects in accounting,
corporate governance, financial reporting regulation, political ecomony of
accounting etc.

Advanced Topics in Finance

Advanced Topics in Finance

1) Advanced Topics in Information Acquisition and Processing
2) Regression-Based Estimation of Asset Pricing Models
3) Advanced Topics in Financial Intermediation
4) Advanced Topics in Over-The-Counter Markets
5) Advanced Topics in Political Economy in Finance
6) Advanced Topics in Household Finance



Students can choose up to two elective courses suitable for their chosen area of specialisation. These can be offered by Frankfurt School but often are found at other research universities. The faculty and the programme office help you identify the appropriate courses.



Students can choose up to two elective courses suitable for their chosen area of specialisation. These can be offered by Frankfurt School but often are found at other research universities. The faculty and the program office help you identify the appropriate courses.

PhD Brownbag

PhD Brownbag

The workshop provides a forum for presenting ongoing and completed research projects by Ph.D. students. Students learn to present their own academic research for a mixed audience. They will gain skills in presenting, preparing compelling slides, interacting with the audience, taking feedback, and time management. Given the turnover of topics over time, students are required to enrol in the course every time it is offered.


Master's Thesis / 2nd year paper

Master Thesis / 2nd year paper

The second year paper is the first piece of the student’s very own presentable research work. It can also be used to obtain a Master’s degree in Business Research and Analytics.


Research (Dissertation and Defence)

Research (Dissertation and Defence)

Upon passing the Qualifying Exam at the end of the 2nd year, students enter the research phase of the programme. Students dedicate themselves to their research projects, produce scholarly papers and present their research at international academic conferences. They also have the opportunity to interact with international scholars visiting Frankfurt School to present research in the seminar series.

Research at FS

Stevo Pavicevic

Why do managers so often underestimate the risk of their strategic decisions? Management professor Stevo Pavicevic tries to answer this question in his work:

"Making decisions is at the heart of professional lives of managers. Despite managers' best efforts, their decisions are often hopelessly erroneous. Here at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, we investigate why managers make poor strategic decisions, and more importantly, how firms can build safeguards into the decision-making process to reduce the risk of flawed decisions."

Tetyana Kosyakova

Decision making is also important in marketing professor Tetyana Kosyakova’s projects, but her focus is on consumers rather than managers:

"My research is mainly in the area of choice and Bayesian modelling. Currently, I am working on a series of projects, which focus on developing the methodology for estimating consumer preferences based on consumer choice (or purchase) data, when consumers are making choice decisions given a large choice set.

More Less

A typical purchase decision from a large choice set could be a consumer picking a yoghurt in a supermarket, given a large yoghurt assortment on a dairy shelf or a consumer configuring a laptop given multiple options for processor, memory and other technical features. Traditional models do not scale to large choice sets or large product assortments due to the difficulty of likelihood evaluation. My work is aimed at contributing to this research area."

matthias mahlendorf

Dr. rer. pol. students at Frankfurt School often work closely together with the faculty on (larger) research projects. Digitalization and its corporate impact is at the core of the project of accounting professor Matthias Mahlendorf:

"In a joint project with Dr. rer. pol. and students and international coauthors, we are currently investigating how senior managers develop their expectations about their company's future performance.

More Less

This is important, because many firms are currently investing in new approaches such as Google's "Objectives and Key Results", OKR as well as in predictive analytics. These tools have the potential to solve some challenges that firms have struggled with for decades, such as slack building in performance goals and biased forecasts. However, we need solid research to distinguish between hype and actual improvements."

Yigitcan Karabulut

Research at Frankfurt School often centres on big problems in society, including climate change and wealth inequality. Take, for example the work of finance professor Yigitcan Karabulut:

"My current research interest lies in household finance, with a particular emphasis on studying the factors that contribute to household wealth dynamics and their implications for the evolution of wealth inequality. In other words, I examine why some families are poor and some are wealthy and how this changes over time. Lately, I am working mostly to understand the impact of robots on differences in wealth."

Sascha Steffen

After a lot of hard work, the tangible output of research is a publication in a scientific journal. We asked Professor Sascha Steffen about the paper that is closest to his heart:

"Even though it is not my best published paper, I am very happy about my paper on the "dash for cash" of firms during the current COVID crisis. It was not only the first paper that scrutinized this but also unearthed some subtle drivers of corporate cash holdings.

More Less

First, cash does not seem to be just "negative debt" (or a waste of resources that some literature seems to suggest) but there is an economic rationale for holding cash. Second, credit risk matters for cash holdings (which has been somewhat neglected in the literature); it is not only default risk, though, but there is a "cliff risk" for firms to become downgraded to non-investment grade which significantly affects cash holdings."

Finance Faculty

Affiliated Faculty

Student funding and scholarships

Frankfurt School offers fully-funded study places for the doctoral programme in order to attract and support the brightest minds in academia.

Students are expected to devote 100% of their working time to their doctoral studies at Frankfurt School for up to five years.

Funding includes a tuition fee waiver and a cost-of-living stipend. The monthly stipend comprises of EUR 1,820.

The stipend will be granted for five years conditional on the continued satisfaction of all academic programme requirements.

From the first year onwards doctoral students will receive EUR 1,820 for the period of 5 years.

Furthermore Frankfurt School covers costs related to research, including conferences and overseas visits.

Application process

1. Target Group and Admission Requirements

Outstanding graduates of a Bachelor‘s or Master’s programme in business administration, finance, management, accounting or related fields who aspire to launch an academic career.

Candidates in the final year of a Master’s or Bachelor’s programme are welcome to apply with their most recent academic transcript. Please note that the degree has to be completed by the time of the beginning of the programme.

2. Online Application

The first step of our application process is to complete the online application form. You will need to upload the following required documents. Please note that you need a certified English or German translation for all documents, that are not originally in German or English. The application platform will be open between 15 September and 15 January.

Required Documents

  • CV and list of publications (if existent)
  • Certified copy of your University Entrance Qualification (Abitur, A-levels or equivalent)
  • Certified copy of your University Degree Certificate or equivalent and academic transcript of records
  • Official GMAT or GRE results
  • Proof of English Language Proficiency Test (TOEFL IBT min. score of 100/IELTS min. score of 7.0)
  • Statement of Purpose (up to 2 pages): Why are you interested in your chosen field of study? What are the potential areas of research you might pursue? Have you completed any research projects with faculty? Is the research of any member of the FS faculty of interest to you?
  • Optional Statement: If you would like the committee to consider any of the following factors, you can describe their relevance in a separate statement within the application. This can contribute to the diversity of the entering class: background, extracurricular activities, work experience.
  • Two letters of recommendation: To request the letters from your recommenders, you have to register on a separate platform and send your request from there.

    Please click on this link to access the platform:

    Create a profile by clicking on the button “Apply now”.

    If you require assistance, go to the “Home” tab and click the “Dossier Quick Start Guide”.

    Once you send your request to your potential recommender, they will receive an e-mail together with a link where they can upload their recommendation letter confidentially. Please provide a deadline for your recommendation letter to ensure we receive it on time. Once the recommender has uploaded the letter, we will be notified and will be able to access it.

3. Interview

Successful applicants will be invited to an online interview with faculty members of the chosen concentration.

4. Results

The final decision regarding admission to our doctoral programme will be made by the Committee for Doctoral Proceedings. It is based on the applicants' overall portfolio and the interview. The results will be communicated after the final decision.