Strategic Risk Management Behavior: What Can Utility Functions Tell Us?
The validity of the utility concept, particularly in an expected utility framework, has been questioned because of its inability to predict revealed behavior. In this paper we focus on the global shape of the utility function instead of the local shape of the utility function. We examine the extent of heterogeneity in the global shape of the utility function of decision makers and test whether its shape predicts strategic risk management behavior. We assess the utility functions and relate them to strategic decisions for portfolio managers (N = 104) and hog farmers (N = 239). The research design allows us to examine the robustness of our results and the extent to which the results can be generalized. Furthermore, we assess the shape of the utility functions for these decision makers applying two different methods. This allows us to further test the robustness of our empirical results. If there exists a relationship between the shape of the utility function and strategic decisions, both methods should yield the same result. The empirical results indicate that the global shape of the utility function differs across decision makers (fully concave or convex versus S-shaped), and that the global shape predicts strategic decisions (e.g., asset allocation strategy in the case of portfolio managers; type of production process employed in the case of hog farmers). These findings support the notion that the often criticized concept of utility is a useful concept when studying actual behavior, and highlight the importance of considering decision-maker behavior over a wide outcome range when examining strategic behavior.
|Date of creation:||2004|
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