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Consistent Forecasting vs. Anchoring of Market Stories: Two Cultures of Modeling and Model Use in a Bank

  • Leon Wansleben (a1)
Argument

It seems theoretically convenient to construe knowledge practices in financial markets and organizations as “applied economics.” Alternatively or additionally, one might argue that practitioners draw on economic knowledge in order to systematically orient their actions towards profit-maximization; models, then, are understood as devices that make calculative rationality possible. However, empirical studies do not entirely confirm these theoretical positions: Practitioners’ actual calculations are often not “framed” by models; organizations and institutions influence the choice and adoption of models; and different professional groups in financial markets have diverging attitudes towards model calculations. In order to account for this diversity, this article proposes the concept of cultures of economic and financial expertise; the concept focuses on the patterns of knowledge practices and knowledge-related self-definitions of groups within financial organizations and markets; it also facilitates an analysis of the relations between and, more specifically, the hierarchies among different practices and identities. The article then goes on to explore the process of foreign exchange forecasting in a particular bank. The description immediately reveals that two groups are involved in this process: economists and analysts. These groups maintain quite different practices and self-descriptions in relation to models: While the economists in the bank use the models as organizational resources for consistent forecasting procedures and observe data with the help of simple model structures, analysts approach model forecasts from the perspective of critics: They see limits in the variable-centered, as opposed to a “thematic” approach and they disregard a model's imposed temporality. Nevertheless, analysts use model forecasts as anchors for developing their own “paths” and stories about possible future expectation changes in the markets. The specific division of labor between economists and analysts, and specifically the dominant role of analysts in the forecasting process, fit into a larger picture: The rise of institutional investors in the foreign exchange markets and their demand for genuine market knowledge for speculative investment projects has contributed to the rise and dominance of analysts’ culture.

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