William Forsyth Sharpe is an American economist who received the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences for developing the ‘Capital Asset Pricing Model’. He created a measure for the performance analysis of investments known as the ‘Sharpe Ratio’. He also developed a ‘binomial method’ for evaluating options, a method for the optimization of asset allocation and a method for evaluating the performance of investments based on returns. He started with Harry Markowitz’s ‘portfolio theory’ and developed the ‘Capital Asset Pricing Model’ or CAPM. This model could be followed by all types of investors irrespective of whether the portfolio contained a large number of risky assets or it was weighed down by riskless assets such as insured bank deposits. He suggested the value ‘beta’ as the measure of risk that cannot be mitigated in a portfolio. This meant that if the ‘beta’ value of the portfolio was 1.5, then the value of the portfolio could rise by 15 percent if the stock market rose by 10 percent. Conversely the value could go down by 15 percent if there was a reduction of 10 percent in the stock market. This became a standard of evaluating the accumulated return of all the shares in the portfolio.
Childhood & Early Life
William Sharpe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA on June 16, 1934.
William had his schooling at the ‘Riverside Polytechnic High School’ and graduated in 1951.
He joined the ‘University of California at Berkeley’ in 1951 in order to study medicine.
Before the first year was over he decided to study Business Administration instead and joined the ‘University of California at Los Angeles’.
Out of the two main subjects of accountancy and economics he decided to major in economics as he found accountancy to be too plain.
He earned his B.A. in economics from UCLA in 1955 and his M.A. degree in 1956 from UCLA.
He joined the Army for a short period after which he joined the RAND Corporation in 1956 to pursue research and also started work on his PhD thesis with the help of Harry Markowitz.
He earned his PhD from the UCLA in 1961 while working at Rand Corporation.
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In 1961 William Sharpe moved to Seattle and joined the ‘University of Washington’ as professor of finance in the ‘School of Business’.
While teaching at this university, he started his research on asset pricing and came up with the ‘Capital Asset Pricing Model’ or CAPM.
He remained with the University of Washington up to 1968 except for a year when he took leave to work for the Rand Corporation.
He moved to the ‘University of California at Irvine’ in 1968. He remained at this university for only a couple of years.
He moved to the ‘Stanford University’ in 1970 and joined the ‘Graduate School of Business’ where, other than teaching, he continued his research.
In 1973 he was named the ‘Timken Professor of Finance’ at Stanford.
In 1974 he took up a study on the role of investment policy on funds dealing with providing pensions. At this time he also became a consultant for ‘Merrill Lynch’, ‘Pierce’, Fenner and Smith’, and ‘Wells Fargo’ where he could apply his financial theories to practical solutions.
He spent the academic year from 1976 to 1977 at the ‘National Bureau of Economic Research’ studying the effects of the adequacy of bank capital.
He was elected the president of the ‘American Finance Association’ in 1980.
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From 1975 to 1983 he served as a ‘Trustee of the College Retirement Equities Fund’ and ‘Research Foundation of the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts’. He served as a committee member in the ‘Institute of Quantitative Research in Finance’ and the ‘Council on Education and Research of the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts’.
He also served as a ‘Strategic Advisor’ for Nikko Securities’ Institute of Investment Technology’ and in the department of ‘Portfolio Management’ for the ‘Union Bank of Switzerland’.
In 1986 he collaborated with Frank Russell to form the ‘Sharpe-Russell Research’ company which provided consultations to various foundations and pension funds companies on asset allocation.
He retired from teaching in 1989 but remained a ‘Timken Professor Emeritus of Finance’ at the ‘Stanford University’.
After retirement he became deeply involved with his consultation firm named ‘William Sharpe Associates’.
He founded the company ‘Financial Engines’ or FNGN which started to use modern technologies for the implementation of his financial theories of portfolio management into real life scenarios.
He became the president of the ‘American Finance Association’ and also a trustee for the ‘Economists for Peace and Security’.
He has been advocating ‘adaptive asset allocation strategies’ for optimizing asset allocation for maximum returns and little volatility with the help of latest market behaviors.
William Sharpe published the papers ‘A Simplified Model for Portfolio Analysis’ in 1963 and ‘Capital Asset Prices – A Theory of Market Equilibrium Under Conditions of Risk’ in 1964.
His book ‘Portfolio Theory and Capital Markets’ was published in 1970 and 2000 while his second book ‘Asset Allocation Tools’ was published in 1987.
His next two books ‘Investments’ and ‘Fundamentals of Investments’ in collaboration with Jeffrey Bailey and Gordon J. Alexander were published in 1999 and 2000 respectively. The ‘William F Sharpe: Selected Works’ was published in 2012.
Awards & Achievements
William Sharpe received the ‘Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa’ from the ‘DePaul University’ and a ‘Doctor Honoris Causa each from the Spanish university of Alicante and the Vienna University.
He also won the ‘UCLA Medal’ which is the highest honor given by UCLA.
He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1990.
Personal Life & Legacy
William Sharpe got married to Kathryn, a well-known painter, in 1986.
They have a daughter named Deborah and a son named Jonathan from the marriage.
William Sharpe loves sailing, football, basketball and the opera.