Luc Meunier is PhD candidate with a MSc in Finance and a MSc in Management. His research theme is the relation between shareholders and CEO and its association with financial risk taking.
Stock-option compensation is coherent with the principle of agency
theory, by encouraging risk averse executives to take a more risk neutral
stance. However, it is unclear whether the contract is actually
more powerful than personal characteristics in shaping decision-making.
We compare experimentally the risk aversion and prudence of 100 participants
under a stock-option incentive contract and a classic equity
granting one. We measure a number of personality variables, as well as
cortisol and testosterone levels, which have been related to risk taking
in previous studies. We first underline that stock-options contract indeed
drives more risk neutral behaviour, both regarding variance and
skewness. This e?ect is mainly driven by a shift in focus from losses to
gains. Loss aversion and higher cortisol levels were linked to a preference
for the safer equity contract. Second, we show that cortisol and
testosterone levels are linked to preferences for variance and skewness,
often in a quadratic fashion. Third, we show that this impact is actually
stronger than the one of the contract, both in terms of predictive power
and economic e?ect. Therefore, our study highlights the impact of personality
and even biological variables on risk taking, and underline the
need for a behavioural approach of contract setting.
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