|Associate Professor of Department of Geography||228||+44 (0) 191 33 41865|
|Associate Professor of Economy and Culture||228||+44 (0) 191 33 41865|
I am an economic geographer with research expertise on financial geography. My research interests include geographies of money and finance, global cities, service sectors and market formation, focusing particularly on issues of financialisation, knowledge networks, and economic development in Asia and their wider production networks with Europe. My work also draws upon interdisciplinary ideas from economic sociology, international political economy, cultural studies and social studies of finance. I received my Bachelor and Master degrees in Geography from the National University of Singapore and completed my PhD in Economic Geography at the University of Nottingham. Prior to Durham University, I was previously based at the National University of Singapore and University of British Columbia (Canada).
I am on the journal editorial boards of Geoforum and Geography Compass (Economic section), and the international advisory board of the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography. I am a founding member of the Global Network on Financial Geography (FinGeo) and currently serve as Editor of the working paper series. I am also a long-serving committee member of the RGS-IBG Economic Geography Research Group (EGRG) and am currently the Social Media and Web Officer.
I am currently working on two strands of research:
1) Fintech and financial ecologies
FinTech, a short hand for ‘financial technology’, encompasses a new wave of companies that are harnessing technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchains, and platform infrastructures to change the ways that businesses and consumers make payments, lend, borrow and invest. FinTech is being actively promoted in many international financial centres as presenting opportunities for capturing new markets and developing new capabilities to bolster their financial centre status, including Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Luxembourg. I am developing this research in three directions. Firstly, the ways in which FinTech is reconfiguring existing global production and financial networks, which requires a rethinking of what constitutes value and lead firms. Secondly, a notable increase in positioning financial practices as entertainment and play are pointing towards a ‘gamification’ of finance. Thirdly, the growing significance of Chinese firms in digital and financial innovations and how they are influencing wider FinTech ecologies.
2) Global production/financial networks of investment banks and law firms
This study examines the global financial networks (GFN) of investment banks in two specific sectors — mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and initial public offerings (IPO) — to investigate how networks of underwriters, legal counsel, auditing and other due diligence has developed and changed over time. Over the past 20 decades, large transnational corporations (TNCs) have shifted more of their borrowing needs from bank-based financing to capital markets, creating greater demand for advisory, brokerage and trading services from investment banks and other advanced business services (ABS). Finance has become an increasingly important driver of global production structures and strategies, in terms of financial narratives, logics and instruments that shape the depth and extent of firms’ global activities. The study investigates the geographical and cross-industry variations in the networks of underwriters, bookrunners and auxiliary firms in terms of bulge bracket (often American) investment banks and more specifically their operational networks in Asia. Such GFNs could reveal insights into the relative roles and importance of investment banks and ABS firms in Asian GPNs, the significance of established corporate relationships in other financial centres on investment banking activities in Asia, and the impact of corporate clients on M&A and IPO processes and activities. Findings from the project is vital for understanding the financial dimensions that underpin the production of goods and services in the global economy.
A previous research project examined 'Financial subject formation and the financialisation of everyday life’. This study focused on financial intermediaries (relationship managers, financial planners etc.) and consumers (retail investors) and their financial subjectification—the ways in which they are moulded into ‘responsible’ and ‘knowledgeable’ investors through industry development and consumer education. Much of this growth in wealth management and insurance sectors have been driven by increasing affluence of the local population and wealth in the region (e.g. Indonesia, China, India), along with changing patterns of savings and consumption that are partly institutionally driven. Building on the literature on financialisation, I use the empirical findings to build theoretical arguments on financial ecologies and state-led financialisation.
- Geographies of money and finance
- International financial centre
- Fintech and digital economies
- Global production/financial networks
- Global cities and world city networks
- Markets and varieties of capitalism/variegated capitalism
- Political economy and development in Asia
Chapter in book
- Stolz, Dennis & Lai, Karen P.Y. (2020). Impact Investing, Social Enterprise and Global Development. In The Routledge International Handbook of Financialization. Mader, Phil, Mertens, Daniel & van der Zwan, Natascha Routledge. 288-300.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. (2020). FinTech: The dis/re-intermediation of finance? In The Routledge Handbook of Financial Geography. Knox-Hayes, Janelle & Wójcik, Dariusz Routledge. 440-458.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. (2018). Financialisation of everyday life. In The New Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography. Clark, Gordon L., Feldmann, Maryann P. Gertler, Meric & Wojcik, Dariusz Oxford University Press. 611-627.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. (2018). Singapore: Connecting Asian markets with global finance. In International Financial Centres: After the Global Financial Crisis and Brexit. Cassis, Youssef & Wojcik, Dariusz Oxford University Press. 154-181.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. & Daniels, Joseph A. (2017). Financialization of Singaporean banks and the production of variegated financial capitalism. In Money and Finance After the Crisis: Critical Thinking for Uncertain Times. Christophers, Brett, Leyshon, Andrew & Mann, Geoff Wiley-Blackwell. 217-244.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. & Samers, Michael (2021). Towards an economic geography of FinTech. Progress in Human Geography 45(4): 720-739.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. & Pan, Fenghua (2021). Brexit and shifting geographies of financial centres in Asia. Geoforum 125: 201-202.
- Liu, Felicia HM & Lai, Karen PY (2021). Ecologies of green finance: Green sukuk and development of green Islamic finance in Malaysia. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space
- Lai, Karen P. Y., Lin, Shaun & Sidaway, James D. (2020). Financing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): research agendas beyond the “debt-trap” discourse. Eurasian Geography and Economics 61(2): 109-124.
- Lai, Karen P.Y., Pan, Fenghua, Sokol, Martin & Wójcik, Dariusz (2020). New Financial Geographies of Asia. Regional Studies 54(2): 143-148.
- Gemici, Kurtulus & Lai, Karen P. Y. (2020). How 'global' are investment banks? An analysis of investment banking networks in Asian equity capital markets. Regional Studies 54(2): 149-161.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. (2018). Agency, power, and state-firm relations in global financial networks. Dialogues in Human Geography 8(3): 285-288.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. (2017). Unpacking financial subjectivities: Intimacies, governance and socioeconomic practices in financialisation. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 35(5): 913-932.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. & Samers, Michael (2017). Conceptualizing Islamic banking and finance: a comparison of its development and governance in Malaysia and Singapore. The Pacific Review 30(3): 405-424
- Lai, Karen (2017). Review of world city network. Urban Geography 38(1): 153-154.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. (2016). Financial advisors, financial ecologies and the variegated financialisation of everyday investors. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 41(1): 27-40.
- Clark, Gordon L., Lai, Karen P. Y. & Wójcik, Dariusz (2015). Editorial Introduction to the Special Section: Deconstructing Offshore Finance. Economic Geography 91(3): 237-249.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. & Tan, Choon Hang (2015). "Neighbours First, Bankers Second" Mobilising financial citizenship in Singapore. Geoforum 64: 65-77.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. (2015). Banking Across Boundaries: Placing Finance in Capitalism by Brett Christophers. Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, pp. xi + 290 (ISBN: 978-1-4443-3828-7). Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 36(1): 127-128.
- Coe, Neil M., Lai, Karen P.Y. & Wójcik, Dariusz (2014). Integrating Finance into Global Production Networks. Regional Studies 48(5): 761-777.
- Lai, Karen P.Y. (2013). The Lehman Minibonds crisis and financialisation of investor subjects in Singapore. Area 45(3): 273-282.