Marco Ceccarelli

Maastricht University - Department of Finance


My research is on sustainable corporate finance and banking, with a focus on investments. Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher at Maastricht University. Before joining Maastricht, I graduated from the Swiss Finance Institute (SFI) at the University of Zurich.


Working Papers

Low-carbon Mutual Funds
Revise & Resubmit at Review of Finance
(2nd round)

with Stefano Ramelli and Alexander F. Wagner (2022)

Climate change poses new challenges for portfolio management. Investors face a trade-off between minimizing climate risk exposure and maximizing the risk benefits of portfolio diversification in a not-yet-low-carbon world. This paper investigates investors' and financial intermediaries' responses to this risk-risk trade-off. We analyze the fund flows and position changes of a large sample of European and US mutual funds after the release of Morningstar's carbon risk metrics in April 2018, a shock to the availability of information on climate transition risks. Funds labeled as "low carbon" experienced a significant increase in investor demand, especially those compensating for their under-diversification with high risk-adjusted returns. Fund managers actively reduced their exposure to high-carbon risk firms, especially when less costly for portfolio diversification. These findings shed light on whether and how climate-related information can re-orient capital flows in a low-carbon direction.

  • Liechtenstein workshop in sustainable finance 2022 Best Paper Award

  • GRASFI 2019 Best Ph.D. Paper Prize

  • presented at the 2020 WFA conference

  • Coverage: ECGI.global; ETF.com; UNPRI.org

Catering through transparency: Voluntary ESG disclosure by asset managers and fund flows

with Simon Glossner and Mikael Homanen, (2022)

We find that voluntary ESG disclosure by asset managers enables clients to identify investors with higher ESG integration, thereby reducing the information asymmetry within the responsible investment landscape. Institutional investors disclose on their ESG practices as part of their voluntary commitment to the Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI), the world’s largest responsible investment network. After joining the PRI, investors annually file a detailed ESG report, which is assessed and scored by the PRI. Clients allocate more assets toward institutions that receive higher scores on their disclosure. The disclosure signal becomes more effective when it is corroborated by third-party ESG fund ratings and when it correlates with more sustainable equity holdings.

  • Semifinalist FMA 2022 Best Paper Award - Investments

  • presented at 2022 EEA conference

Which Institutional Investors Drive Corporate Sustainability?

with Simon Glossner, Mikael Homanen and Daniel A. Schmidt (2021)

Many institutional investors publicly commit to some form of responsible investment. This raises concerns about the credibility of such claims. We use participation in collaborative engagements to identify "Leaders", i.e., institutional investors that are truly committed to improving firms' sustainability outcomes. Despite owning only 2.2% of the average firm, Leaders alone explain the positive relationship between institutional ownership and firms’ environmental and social performance. In line with committed owners facilitating corporate change, engagement campaigns are successful only when firms are substantially owned by Leaders. We also find that these firms are less at risk of experiencing negative incidents.

  • GRASFI 2022 Best Paper Award for Transparency for Stakeholders

  • presented at the 2022 EEA conference

  • Coverage: institutional-money.com

Walk the line: Do investors reward firms that exploit regulatory grey areas?

(2019). [Updated version coming soon!]

This paper investigates whether certain investors either prefer or dislike holding firms that exploit more of the available regulatory wiggle room and if such a strategy pays off. Exploited wiggle room (WR) is captured by relatively aggressive tax planning, financial reporting, and earnings management practices. I find that long-term, low-turnover investors hold firms with 3% higher exploited WR than those held by short-term, high-turnover investors. After experiencing financial adviser misconduct that breaches their trust, investors reduce the exploited WR of their holdings by 5%. This is consistent with investors choosing firms according to their preferences for WR. Overall, investors seem to have heterogeneous preferences for WR exploitation and a liking for cautious firms that cannot be explained by a profit maximization motive alone.

Coverage: Rothschild SRI Chronicles, No. 18.

Work in progress

Gender, performance, and promotion in the labor market for commercial bankers
with Christoph Herpfer and Steven Ongena, (2022).

Using detailed data from the U.S. syndicated loan market, we find that women are persistently under-represented among senior ranks. This gap is not closing due to unequal rates of promotion between men and women working at the same institution at the same point of time. Consistent with a glass ceiling effect, the gender promotion gap opens up at senior ranks and persists even after controlling for performance and human capital. Compared to their peers, women issue more and larger loans without compromising credit quality. Switching employers, gender diversity on boards, or pregnancy protection laws do not help shrink the gender promotion gap. In contrast, after being targeted by gender discrimination lawsuits, banks increasingly promote women.

  • presented at the 2022 AFA, 2022 Helsinki Finance Summit, and 2021 EEA conferences

The investment skill of ESG aware mutual funds
with Richard B. Evans, Simon Glossner, Mikael Homanen, and Ellie Luu, (2022).

  • presented at the 2022 EEA conference