BHP class of 2013 graduate Doug Daniels is taking a different path than most of our graduates. Doug was selected to receive a prestigious Fulbright research grant to conduct research at The University of Cologne in Germany. Doug will spend the next year researching Germany’s perception of risk and lending practices for Germany’s Mittelstand. We recently spoke with Doug to learn more about his planned research.
Where will you be and what will you be researching?
I will be researching how the recent financial crisis has affected Germany’s perception of risk and its lending practices for the Mittelstand – a term used to refer to small and mid-sized German enterprises. Since the financial crisis, Germany has created new legislation that could restrict several Mittelstand companies from refinancing their loans with the original bank. My research will examine alternative refinancing options for these companies. I will conduct my research under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Monika Trapp at The University of Cologne in Germany where I will also be enrolled in finance and German courses to supplement my project. I also plan to keep a blog to document my research progress and cultural experiences.
Why are you interested in researching this subject?
The research is an extension of my senior thesis, “Refinancing the German Maturity Wall.” McCombs students are able to receive credit for writing a thesis by enrolling in an independent research / study course. My thesis was under the supervision of Sandy Leeds and was submitted as a part of my Fulbright application.
In the U.S., leveraged loans are priced and sold according to credit quality and institutional investors’ appetite. However, German loans are much more controlled by local banks which often hold the entire loan. New legislation in Germany has increased regulations for local banks which will restrict lending practices. Mittelstand companies need to refinance billions of dollars of loans and many will have to find new lenders. I am interested in exploring potential international lending opportunities for the Mittelstand.
What was the process like to receive the Fulbright grant and how competitive was it?
Last summer, I interned for a specialty lending group that funded leveraged loans for private equity deals. While the bank made me an offer to start full time after graduation, I declined the offer to take a year to go to Germany and research. It was a difficult decision because I truly enjoyed my job but moving to Germany has always been a life goal of mine. To make the decision harder, I had to turn down the offer before I even started applying to grants for Germany. Luckily, the German government offers several different grants for foreign researchers.
I applied to three grant programs, each with its own application. UT has a very strong program for Fulbright. Applicants first apply through the University where a panel conducts an interview and critiques the research proposal. After the interview, applicants are assigned a mentor to help redraft their proposal. My mentor, Dr. Jane Lincove, was extremely helpful as I rewrote my proposal. Applications are then sent to the U.S. State Department who select finalist that are forwarded to the German Fulbright Commission in Berlin. The German Commission selects the final 80 grant recipients. The most difficult part of the application is finding a German affiliation. All applications need to have the written support of a German university and professor. I sent my thesis to dozens of universities and ended up affiliating with The University of Cologne and Prof. Dr. Monika Trapp who specializes in credit research.
When did you find out you received the scholarship and what was your reaction to the news?
I submitted all of my applications in October but did not hear any response until the following April. It’s a very long and stressful wait, especially after turning down a full-time offer. I was very excited to receive multiple grants and ended up selecting Fulbright because it gave the most flexibility for my research.
What would you like to do once the grant has ended?
I plan to spend a year at The University of Cologne conducting my research. When I return, I hope to join the specialty lending group where I interned last summer. I believe that my research will provide an interesting perspective to my work.
I want to encourage other business students to apply for a Fulbright. It is a great opportunity to have a paid year abroad. The program lets undergraduates of any field study in any country. While the program is popular in the liberal arts college and engineering school, few business majors apply at UT.