Elena S. Pikulina

Assistant Professor

Finance Division
Sauder School of Business
University of British Columbia

Email: elena (dot) pikulina (at) sauder.ubc.ca
Phone: +1 604 822 3314
2053 Main Mall, HA864
Vancouver BC
V6T 1Z2 Canada

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Working Papers

Subtle discrimination, with Daniel Ferreira. Curernt version: November 2022.

We propose a theory of subtle discrimination, defined as discriminatory behavior without direct payoff consequences for the decision-maker. We present a model in which candidates compete for promotion to a better job. When choosing among equally-qualified candidates, the principal subtly discriminates by breaking ties in favor of candidates from a particular group. Subtle discrimination distorts candidates’ human capital investment decisions. The model predicts that discriminated agents perform better in low-stakes careers, while favored agents perform better in highstakes careers. In equilibrium, firms are polarized: high-productivity firms strive to be “progressive” and have diverse top management teams, while low-productivity firms prefer to be “conservative” and have little diversity at the top.

Political Divide and the Composition of Households’ Equity Portfolios, with Yihui Pan, Stephan Siegel, and Tracy Yue Wang. Current version: November 2022.

Using stock holdings of local retail investment advisers, we examine the differences in equity portfolios held by households in different counties of the U.S. with different political preferences over the past 25 years. Although political differences between counties have been increasing over time, it is not until 2013 when they started to increasingly and significantly contribute to differences in equity portfolio composition. Using the entry of a major conservative media network as a shock to county-level political preferences, we find that political differences seem to have a causal impact on portfolio differences. We show that the effect of political differences on portfolio differences operates mainly through diverging political views on social and environmental issues rather than through differences in economic expectations. Our study suggests that increasing political divisions could lead to divergence in household portfolios across the U.S., as investors increasingly align their financial investment with their politically shaped values.

Preferences for autonomy in pay, with Chloe Tergiman. Current version: January 2020.

A recent literature points to individuals having preferences for autonomy from others when it concerns how much they earn. Using a simple experiment we evaluate whether individuals exhibit preferences for autonomy without confounds present in the earlier work. We show that in their vast majority (close to 90%), individuals show no such preferences for autonomy. Our results suggest that the previously documented prevalence of autonomy preferences is likely due to risk attitudes, environment complexity, perceived uncertainty or beliefs, rather than preferences for autonomy in pay per se.

Contractual and tournament incentives in the mutual fund industry. Current version: Novermber 2015.

I study the impact of contractual incentives on the behavior of mutual fund managers in annual tournaments. I show that linear contracts as opposed to concave ones induce managers to make larger risk adjustments in response to their relative performance ranks. I argue that contracts with linear fee structure directly translate the convex relationship between past fund returns and fund size into a convex relationship between past performance and managerial pay, whereas concave contracts distort this relationship and make it less convex. I also demonstrate that higher fee rates encourage fund managers to engage into annual tournaments, as they strengthen the connection between fund size and managerial pay in comparison with lower fee rates. The above results are robust to controlling for funds characteristics, such as fund size, age and turnover, as well as year- and style-fixed effects.

Work in Progress

Interest rate experiences and mutual fund risk taking, with Carolin Pflueger

Labour heterogeneity and stock returns, with Hernan Ortiz-Molina

Culture and market behaviour: Do Chinese become less risk-seeking when they are out of China? with Luc Renneboog and Philippe N. Tobler


Pan, Yuhui, Elena S. Pikulina, Stephan Siegel and Tracy Yue Wang (2021). Do equity markets care about income inequality? Evidence from pay ratio disclosure. Forthcoming in the Journal of Finance.

Pikulina, Elena and Chloe Tergiman (2020). Preferences for power. Journal of Public Economics 185 (2020): 104-173.

Pikulina, Elena, Luc Renneboog, and Philippe N. Tobler. Do Confident Individuals Generally Work Harder? Journal of Multinational Financial Management 44 (2018): 51-60.

Pikulina, Elena, Luc Renneboog, and Philippe N. Tobler. Overconfidence and Investment: An Experimental Approach. Journal of Corporate Finance 43 (2017): 175-192. Experimental instructions.

Pikulina, Elena, and Luc Renneboog. 14. Serial Takeovers, Large Shareholders, and CEOs' Equity-Based Compensation. Research Handbook on Shareholder Power (2015): 297.

Pikulina, Elena, Luc Renneboog, Jenke Ter Horst, and Philippe N. Tobler. Bonus Schemes and Trading Activity. Journal of Corporate Finance 29 (2014): 369-389.

Drobyshevsky, Sergey, Sergey Narkevich, Elena Pikulina, and Dmitry Polevoy. Analysis of a possible bubble on the Russian real estate market. Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy Research Paper Series 128 (2009).

Mount Thompson summit view to the east, Canadian Rockies