Alumni

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Theo Kocken

Theo Kocken graduated in 1993 in Econometrics and Operations Research. After 10 years of risk management for several banks, he founded his company, Cardano, in 2000. In addition, he has been professor at VU Amsterdam since 2010. Together with Terry Jones (Monty Python) he made the documentary BoomBustBoom, which will be shown at screenings around the world and can also be seen at NPO Doc.

 "I am passionate about and involved with the education of high school students and teenagers, in order to teach them more about the economy and the financial world. At the moment there is too much reliance on fixed assumptions in economic theories, and as a result the instability that is inherent to the financial system is overlooked. There should be more attention for this matter and I am happy to contribute to that."

Why did you chose Tilburg University?

"After my time in military service, I started studying biology in Nijmegen, but soon transferred to physics and then, business administration in Eindhoven. It was not clear to me where my interests laid and business administration, a study program at HTS and TU/e, allowed me to write my thesis in mathematics and to graduate in physics. Via Cees Withagen [now a professor at VU Amsterdam] I learned about econometrics, this really caught my interest. This is why I enrolled as an extraneus for econometrics and operations research in Tilburg."

Who was your favorite professor?

"As extraneus, I did not attend classes but only took the exams. Still I had a great connection with many professors, with whom I discussed the theories. Professor Dolf Talman was my favorite professor, I really enjoyed our conversations about game theory. I also built a good relationship with other professors, for example with Hans Schumacher (who was my supervisor at graduation) and Theo Nijman. Nowadays, I often work together with them."

Is there an interesting anecdote from your student days?

"I took my exams arbitrarily and because I did not attend the classes, I did not know the location of the different classrooms. When I asked someone on campus directions to a classroom for the exam of a fourth year’s course, this person looked at me surprised: How could I not know these locations after four years?"

What has your career been like?

"After starting in 1990 at ‘Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten’ and then ING and Rabobank, being responsible for setting up risk management, I started Cardano in 2000 to shape risk management from the other side, implement it and advise pension funds. Now we have 140 employees, over half of them at our office in London. In 2006 Jean Frijns was my supervisor while getting my Ph. D. and in 2010 I was appointed professor at the Free University (VU) Amsterdam. I came in contact with Monty Python member and documentary maker Terry Jones, who, based on my inaugural speech, wanted to make a documentary about economic crises. Mainly about the biased economic vision after the prime days of mathematics in the eighties and nineties, when mathematics was a goal in itself  and caused people to think that everything was controllable in economics. We made the documentary BoomBustBoom together, which is be shown at screenings including in Tilburg during Night University."

What are your future ambitions?

"Through Cardano I keep involved in risk management and via Cardano Development we work on projects with, amongst others, development banks. Next to that I am passionate about and involved with the education of high school students and teenagers, in order to teach them more about the economy and the financial world. At the moment there is too much reliance on fixed assumptions in economic theories, and as a result the instability that is inherent to the financial system is overlooked. There should be more attention for this matter and I am happy to contribute to that. This is why we started Cardano Education."

What role has Tilburg University/School of Economics and Management played in your live and how has it effected your career?

"In Tilburg I received a sound education, although not in the most common way since I was an extraneus. The contacts and cooperation with the professors are very valuable to me personally, and also for professionally."

Does Tilburg University/School of Economics and Management still play a part in your life and, if yes, how?

"Cardano is a partner of NetSpar, therefore I have a lot of contact with, for example, Lans Bovenberg and Theo Nijman. I also visit the campus regularly to provide guest lectures, for example at TIAS, School for Business and Society."