Economics Spotlighted Student: Isfar Munir '18
For his thesis, Isfar Munir '18 aims to address a component of the yield curve, specifically the intercept also commonly called the short rate.
Playing Cricket and studying physics were driving forces behind Isfar Munir’s ’18 college selection process. While working on a science research project in high school, Isfar reached out to a Princeton University professor who turned out to be a Haverford College alumnus who recommended Haverford. Once Isfar discovered that Haverford has a Cricket team, strong academics and is located close to a big city he was hooked. After visiting the campus and sitting in on some classes he was impressed with the professors and felt drawn to the friendly community.
As he advanced in his curriculum he started to reassess his plans of majoring in physics. The core physics and mathematics classes were becoming more and more abstract, giving him pause. After taking Introduction to Economics with Professor David Owens, his passion was reignited, henceforth exploring more economics classes. Isfar will matriculate with a major in economics and a minor in statistics.
During this time of uncertainty Isfar took a Dean’s Leave fall of his junior year and lived at home working for SoFi, the San Francisco based financial services company focused on lending and wealth management. In fact, the Chief Financial Officer at the time was economics major Saturnino Fanlo ’82. While there, Isfar worked with the mortgage team implementing stochastic interest rate models, assimilating R and Python programming software packages and becoming more familiar with financial models, bond yields and swaption data. He continued his work at SoFi the summer following his junior year as an intern working with interest rate models and calculating risks on mortgage based portfolios.
One of his favorite classes has been Crises with economics Professor Timothy Lambie-Hanson. He enjoyed learning about the 2008 financial crises that hit the industrialized world, what caused it, and how it manifested across countries. The class was well timed. While at SoFi he tied-in and implemented the company’s products based on what he gleaned from Crises. Additionally, Isfar greatly enjoyed Professor Giri Parameswaran’s Mathematical Economics class, where he learned about the mathematics that underpins economics. It’s a refreshing approach, challenging more traditional angles of economic applications.
For his thesis, Isfar aims to address a component of the yield curve, specifically the intercept also commonly called the short rate. Since this short rate is not observable in the real world it is typically inferred from other yields and assets. Isfar plans to incorporate a novel market measure of inflation expectations to calculate the short rate. The methodology decomposes an inflation-indexed Treasury bond, or TIPS bond, into a portfolio of zero-coupon bonds and a derivative indexed on inflation, which will provide a measure of volatility of inflation rates. Assuming a correlation between nominal interest rates and inflation expectations, he can use this to calibrate the short rate model and forecast interest, thereby factoring broader macroeconomic trends that otherwise would be ignored in this type of modelling. This thesis was inspired by his work at SoFi, where he implemented these types of short rate models. The inspiration to calibrate them to inflation expectations came from Professor Carola Binder's Junior Research Seminar: The Federal Reserve course, where the class discussed at length the information that inflation expectations contain about the macroeconomy.
Isfar has played on Haverford’s cricket team for four years, playing as an all-rounder who bats right-handed and bowls right-arm medium pace. Having been the team manager for the last two years, he has worked hard to smooth operations on the team, as well as encouraging a more organized approach to cricket. He also serves on the athletics Strength and Conditioning Committee and the Student Advisory Committee for the Koshland Integrated Natural Science Center.
Post-graduation Isfar is joining the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, DC as a Research Assistant for the Monetary and Financial Markets Analysis group.