Intelligence

Vested Investigates: Chief Economists at Non-Financial Firms

Marian Daniells

Senior Account Manager

In our last post, we shared a video featuring the latest insights from Vested Chief Economist Milton Ezrati. Before joining Vested, Milton was the chief economist for Lord Abbett, one of the oldest investment firms in the U.S. In addition to writing for Vested and other industry publications, he also blogs at Bitesize Investing, and has authored multiple books. We like being able to say we’re the only comms firm with a chief economist, but what other non-financial firms see value in expert insight, and employ chief economists to better understand how economic trends impact their space?

We investigated… The success of some industries is closely tied to broader economic trends, consumer spending and public sentiment. So we were intrigued, if not entirely surprised, by the types of companies that hire economists. Below, some high-level trends and our own analysis.

 

Housing & Real Estate

When the capital and labor markets are doing well, consumers are more likely to buy or upgrade homes. There’s likely some industry interest in trying to stay ahead of another mortgage-based crisis, so it makes sense that these companies orbiting the home space have brought on chief economists.

  • Peter Coles is Airbnb’s chief economist and head of their data science team.  
  • Issi Romem is the chief economist at building-data website BuildZoom—a start-up in San Francisco that helps homeowners find contractors.
  • Nela Richardson is the new chief economist at the Seattle-based, tech-focused real estate brokerage firm, Redfin.

 

Automobiles

Car buying too is closely tied to economic and labor markets, but producers must also take into account things like environmental sentiment and trends, car-sharing services, and the push for automation — including competition from non-traditional companies like Dyson.

  • Elaine Buckberg, is the new chief economist at General Motors.
  • On a smaller scale in the automotive industry, Jonathan Smoke is the chief economist at Cox Automotive Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia

 

Employment

As Milton mentions in his economic update, companies are feeling the stretch of the skilled labor market right now. There’s a natural correlation between employment and economic health, but we were still a bit surprised that multiple companies in the space employ chief economists.

  • Dr. Andrew Chamberlain is chief economist at jobs and recruiting website Glassdoor. He oversees the research program at Glassdoor, providing analysis and commentary on labor market trends.  
  • Jed Kolko is chief economist at Indeed, the world’s #1 job site.

 

Technology

It’s no surprise that technology company performance and market performance are closely tied. Technology stocks make up 26 percent of the S&P 500, a much larger component of the index than weightings in other top U.S. equity benchmarks. Notably, Alphabet and Facebook both are moving from the technology sector to a new communication services sector — but they will together represent close to 45 percent of that new sector. So here again, it makes sense that companies driving much of our country’s economic growth might have the motive to hire economists. Technology’s onboarding of economists may also signal their potential push into finance (payments, PFM, etc.). But, interestingly, one FAANG stock has two economists.

  • Hal R. Varian is the chief economist at Google.  
  • Pat Bajari, Ph.D. is vice president and chief economist at Amazon, and Igal Hendel is the chief economist at Amazon Web Services.   
  • Guy Berger, Ph.D., serves as chief economist at LinkedIn.

Now for a few fun shout-outs to industries and companies that we might not expect to be so focused on economics — because after all, when a crisis hits, consumers will still buy shampoo and beer.

 

Beauty & Personal Care

Fascinatingly, some big names in beauty and personal care employ economists — as do a few in food & beverage. While some of these are large public companies, there are a few (fun!) outliers that use economists to help understand how economic factors impact what we eat and drink. Think of them the next time you have a radler!

  • Anthony Eltvedt is the chief economist North America at L’Oreal USA.
  • Daniel Manor is the senior economist at Unilever (parent of Dove, Axe, Vaseline).
  • Bruno Roche is the chief economist at Mars, Inc.
  • Carlos Herrera is chief economist for Coca-Cola North America Foodservice and On-Premise division. The main thrust of his work is to increase the visibility of “what’s to come” through a deeper understanding of the foodservice industry from an economic perspective.
  • Lester Jones is the chief economist at National Beer Wholesalers Association who tracks the economic factors that impact the beer distribution industry and alcohol policy decisions at the federal, state and local levels.
  • Marisa Zansler is the chief economist at the Florida Department of Citrus. The Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) is a state agency of Florida in charge of regulating and marketing the state’s citrus industry and citrus research.

Many of the global food and beauty brands use their economists to inform their supply chain research and efforts. So while it’s a bit more of a stretch, we were pleased to see that there are a few places using chief economists to help drive innovation efforts:

  • Gareth Olds is a senior economist at Nike’s Global Supply Chain Innovation group, focusing on data science, economic modeling and experimentation.
  • Dr. Jonah Busch is the chief environmental economist for the Earth Innovation Institute.

 

Municipalities

Lastly, some cities employ economists (or similar) to understand how macro national or global economic trends and policies will impact their communities. It comes as no surprise to us that Vested’s three home cities play host to chief economists. These are financial powerhouses — cities who strongly influence the global economy:

  • Lawrence Mielnicki holds the position within New York City’s Office of the Comptroller.
  • Bridget Rosewell was appointed the first city chief economist in London back in 2009 (Check out a great interview from her here).
  • Ted Egan is the chief economist for the City of San Francisco.

Do you know of other non-financial firms that employ economists? Tweet to us your favorites @Vested.

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail