University of Kentucky

Taylor Begley ’05 ’09 EN: From on the field to the field of finance

He set national and state records for kicking during his three seasons at Boyle County High School in Danville. In 2005 with the UK Wildcat football team, he made a school record 92 straight extra-point kicks and was elected to the Academic All-America Team sponsored by ESPN The Magazine and voted on by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Those memorable times are behind Taylor Begley now, and his days are focused on his job as assistant professor of finance at the London Business School in England.

“In addition to being a top-level business school, the London Business School has a particularly strong finance group with many faculty members sharing common research interests with me. On top of that, I figured that there would never be a better time in my life to take the leap to live abroad. Living in London not only gives me access to many of the great opportunities here in the United Kingdom, but also within Europe,” he says. “With Lexington being the largest city I had lived in, and my trip to London being only my second trip outside of the United States, I’ve had quite a change. Aside from the five-hour time zone difference between London and Kentucky, I have loved it here so far.”

The primary focus of his job is to produce high-quality research in financial economics that will get published in top academic journals. “This means spending a lot of time thinking about economic theory, potential imperfections in markets and contracts, and how to rigorously examine these ideas in the data,” he says.

Begley is also teaching a course called Advanced Corporate Finance, which deals with how to apply finance theory to real-world business situations such as valuing firms and their investment opportunities. “London Business School is very similar to a university in the United States, only we focus completely on business and economics,” says Begley. “A good comparison close to home would be to imagine if the UK Gatton College of Business & Economics were its own stand-alone institution.”

Begley didn’t follow a straight path into the world of finance. Instead, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the UK College of Engineering.

“The biggest factor that steered me toward electrical engineering was my amazement in watching my dad fix things. He is a partner in B&E Furniture in Danville, and I was always so impressed with how he could diagnose and fix problems with television sets — and just about anything else. I really wanted to be able to understand how things worked so I could be smart like him. This naturally pointed me toward engineering,” he says.

Begley, who has two sisters who graduated from UK — Carla Begley Carr ’99 BE and Jackie Begley ’02 ED — says he was a big fan of UK athletics, and was drawn to the University of Kentucky even before he was aware of the strength of its engineering program. He was recruited by several schools to play football and while some other options were tempting, he says, he picked UK. “The allure of receiving a full scholarship to get a first-class education and play football for my home state school made my decision an easy one,” says Begley.

He threw himself into his studies and graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Before getting what he calls a “real” job after school, he says he wanted to take a break. “Rather than taking off to backpack across Europe or a road trip across the U.S., I wanted to work at a golf course to sharpen my golf game, so I worked at the University Club in Lexington,” he says. “This was one of the best decisions of my professional life! I then took an electrical engineering position at Mason and Hanger in Lexington, where I continued to work while I earned my master’s degree until I left to begin my Ph.D. in finance at the University of Michigan.”

The switch to a business career was not totally foreign for Begley. “As much as I liked electrical engineering, I was also quite interested in financial markets, and I often spent free time reading in that area. The research experience from my master’s thesis gave me an appreciation for the autonomy, flexibility and stimulation that academia can provide while trying to chase down answers to the questions that I think are interesting and important,” he says. “It seemed natural to combine my interest in financial economics and the desire for a self-directed research agenda into a career in academia.”

Professionally, in the next five years, he says he would like to produce a stream of research that can inform some of the important debates on economic policy. “I will also strive to make a positive impact on the lives of my students beyond just training them to become better investment bankers, traders or corporate executives,” he adds.

On a personal level, he says he will continue to grow in his Christian faith and possibly do some traveling now that he is across the pond. As far as hobbies go, he is a competition junkie. “With my football days behind me, I am always looking for a way to get my fix,” Begley says. “Whether it be playing golf, training for my next race — a half marathon in London at the end of September is next on my slate — or playing cards, I’m in it to win it.”