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Mihir Desai on Demystifying Finance

Harvard Business Professor and Author of The Wisdom of Finance teaches basic financial concepts through stories

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We see finance everywhere, from our retirement assets to our investments in housing and education. Yet, many smart people still find finance intimidating. Key ideas like insurance, leverage, risk, value creation, mergers and bankruptcies remain shrouded in mystery for the majority of people who spend their days on Main Street instead of Wall Street.

The 2008 financial crisis revealed that we could all benefit from a clearer understanding of how markets work. Yet, too often finance is taught in ways that are dry, technical, or jargon-filled.

Enter Mihir Desai. A professor at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, he is on a mission to restore the connection between the humanities and finance. In his book, The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return, Professor Desai explores the ideas of finance from a humanities perspective. In this course, he’ll teach you the most important financial concepts using stories from books like Pride and Prejudice, the Maltese Falcon and the Bible.

This is not a personal finance course.

Instead, it will be a vivid, story-based tour of the key ideas in finance. By the end of this course, you’ll be able to converse fluently about key financial concepts, unpack financial stories in the news, and recognize financial ideas as they show up in everyday life. You’ll start to realize that, rather than being intimidating, the core practices of finance are all around us and have been ingrained in our stories for centuries.

Please go to instructor's bio and website to find the direct link to Mihir's Harvard course.


Your Instructor


Mihir A. Desai
Mihir A. Desai

Mihir A. Desai is the Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He received his Ph.D. in political economy from Harvard University; his MBA as a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School; and a bachelor's degree in history and economics from Brown University. In 1994, he was a Fulbright Scholar to India.

Professor Desai's areas of expertise include tax policy, international finance, and corporate finance. His work has emphasized the appropriate design of tax policy in a globalized setting, the links between corporate governance and taxation, and the internal capital markets of multinational firms. He is a Research Associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research's Public Economics and Corporate Finance Programs and served as the co-director of the NBER's India program. He has testified several times to Congressional bodies on various tax policy questions.

Professor Desai has taught extensively as an award-winning teacher at HBS and at Harvard University. He has taught public economics and entrepreneurship to undergraduates, finance and international finance to MBA students and executives, and tax law and policy to law students. Recently, Professor Desai created an online finance course through the HBX platform titled Leading with Finance. His most recent book is The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return, published in May 2017.

His professional experiences include working at CS First Boston, McKinsey & Co., and advising a number of firms and governmental organizations.


Course Curriculum



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