In 2004, Dr. Ann Marie Hibbert's boss told her she was absolutely crazy.
The scenario: she resigned so she could pursue her Ph.D. in finance.
“He said he would keep my position vacant for a year. ‘Because I know you’ll come back,’ he said. A year later I went back to visit. When I met with him, he asked if I was coming back,” Hibbert explained.
But her answer was a polite “no.”
To be fair, her actions did seem a little crazy at the time. She had an excellent job as a Group Financial Controller for a string of hotel properties and bakery – in the warm and beautiful Caribbean.
Her rise to that position happened in a rather unconventional way.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Hibbert graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer and electrical engineering from the University of the West Indies in the mid-90s. She found work setting up computer systems at a brand new hotel that was preparing to open. Once the set-up was complete, the owner asked her to stay on as his accounts manager. When he bought another hotel, she was promoted to group financial controller. So, aside from her brief initial work in systems, Hibbert transplanted from the world of engineering to the world of business.
While working, she earned her MBA from Florida International University. During her time there, a curious opportunity presented itself.
“I had a knack (for finance.) The mathematical background in engineering made (learning) the quantitative aspect of finance a whole lot easier,” she said. “I was tutoring a lot of my classmates. The chair of the finance department came to me and asked if I’d ever thought about a Ph.D. I hadn’t. He said I should consider it.”
And that takes us back to the beginning of our story. In 2004, she left the corporate world and took the plunge into academia. After earning her PhD in 2008, she traveled north to West Virginia University.
Although she began in corporate finance, Hibbert found that she loved researching investments, especially behavioral finance and derivatives.
“When I was in the Ph.D. program, I was thinking of the fact that we learn in economics that people are rational and markets are efficient,” she said. “But as investors, doesn’t our gender, our background, or future expectations or a combination of all those factors affect how we think and make decisions?”
This thought has propelled a great deal of her research in behavioral finance.
Because she came to academia from the corporate world, Hibbert provides a valuable perspective to her students.
“In total, I have close to 10 years of corporate experience. So when I meet with my students, I talk to them not just as a professor,” she said. “There are some classes where I might take a few minutes to talk about resumes and other career development topics. It might not be finance, per se, but I try to integrate real life tips – what students can do to help themselves when they go (out into the workforce.)”
Dr. Hibbert said her approach to teaching revolves around getting to know her students as individuals.
“I don’t say that as a cliché. I take a view that if you build a relationship with them, you are able to understand them better. Then, it’s easier for them to understand, or to want to learn, or to open up,” she said. “When they are finished with my class, I want them to say that they learned something that has helped them either further their career goals or their academic pursuits. If they get an A in the process, that’s a bonus.”
Outside of work, Dr. Hibbert loves spending time with her five-year-old daughter Anya, who participates in gymnastics and dance. Physical activity is a must for Dr. Hibbert, too. A self-proclaimed health fanatic, she is a vegan and exercises regularly with a personal trainer. And, of course, she visits her family in Jamaica as often as possible.