Student theses

(Common) Questions & Answers

1. I'm interested in writing a student thesis at your institute. What do I have to do?

--> Please check the open topics that are listed below. If you are interested in any of them, please write an email to the mentioned contact person. Please also read the general information below the open topics.

2. Can I write a student thesis with an industry partner?

--> Yes, this is possible. Please refer to the information given below.

3. I need Professor Guettler to sign the application of my student thesis (as first supervisor). What do I have to do?

--> Please send the completed application form (with your name & matriculation number, title of the thesis, starting date, and your signature) as a PDF document by email to Professor Guettler. He will reply ASAP and you can send the application form to the student secretary.

4. I would like to ask Professor Guettler to act as second supervisor for my master thesis. What do I have to do to ask whether he is available? How do I obtain his signature? Do I need to discuss my research in detail?

--> Please send Professor Guettler an email to ask whether he is available as a second supervisor. Mention the title of your thesis and your first supervisor. In case he agrees to act as second supervisor, please send the completed application form (with your name & matriculation number, title of the thesis, starting date, your signature, and the signature of the first supervisor) as a PDF document by email to Professor Guettler. He will reply ASAP and you can send the application form to the student secretary.

Available Master thesis topics

Asset management and asset pricing:

A1. Can One Solve the Idiosyncratic Volatility Puzzle for the UK?

In a recent paper, Hou and Loh (2015) take on the idiosyncratic volatility (IV) puzzle by decomposing the regression coefficient of IV into various components which they find to explain more than 30 percent of the IV puzzle. This thesis aims to verify the results of Hou and Loh for the UK. Please contact Patrick Launhardt if you are interested.


A2. Idiosyncratic Volatility, Volatility of Volatility and the Cross Section of Expected Returns (not available any more)

Bali and Cakici (2008) do not find a robust relationship between idiosyncratic volatility and expected returns in a sample ranging from 1958 until 2004. This thesis aims to check whether their findings hold during and post 2008-crisis. Furthermore, one should verify the results of the first stage by using the volatility of volatility measure which aims to make distinctions between very volatile stocks possible. Please contact Patrick Launhardt if you are interested.


Credit Risk:

C1.  Sovereign Credit Ratings, Capital Flows, Domestic Credit Growth, and House Prices

Sovereign credit ratings are argued to be relevant for financial development of emerging economies through international capital flows. This study aims to document whether a change in sovereign credit ratings of one country have affect on: 

-capital flows to that country
-domestic credit growth
-and house prices

If you are interested, please contact Ahmet Ali Taskin.

C2. The Impacts of Sovereign Credit Ratings on Exchange Rate Volatility

Ever since 2008 financial crisis the volatility of financial market variables have risen substantially. This study plans to analyze whether credit rating announcements have contributed to this by looking at the the relationship between sovereign credit rating announcements and exchange rate volatility. If you are interested, please contact Ahmet Ali Taskin.



B1. Bank performance during financial crises: Does size matter? (reserved)

The optimal size of banks is under debate since the financial crisis of 2008/09. Berger and Bouwman (2013) study the US and show that capital helps improve the performance of small banks at all times irrespective of crises whereas for medium and large banks, capital increases the performance particularly during crises. This thesis is supposed to study the financial market of Brazil and explore the relationship between size and performance of banks (market share, profitability, NPLs etc.) during the financial crisis of 2008/09. The study is also expected to provide insights on the capital-related macroprudential regulations in Brazil in light of the latest proposals from the international banking supervisory bodies e.g. Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Data for this thesis will be provided. If you are interested, please contact Mahvish Naeem.


B2. Relationship between risk and performance of banks: Do risk-averse banks perform better? (reserved)

Imbierowicz and Rauch (2014) show that credit risk and liquidity risk influence banks’ probability of default in the US while the impact of their interaction can be positive or negative depending on the overall level of bank risk. This thesis is supposed to empirically examine the relationship between risk and performance of the banks in Brazil. The student should use various measures of credit risk and liquidity risk and study the performance of banks in Brazil over time. The study aims to address questions such as: Does the level of risk impact profitability and default of banks? What is the combined effect (if any) of liquidity risk and credit risk on banks’ performance? Data will be provided to carry out this research. If you are interested, please contact Mahvish Naeem.



I1. Die Bedeutung des Spread-Risikos in der Lebensversicherung (reserved)

Bei der Berechnung des Risikokapitals bei deutschen Lebensversicherern spielt das Spread-Risiko eine wesentliche Rolle. Bisher werden hierfür weitgehend standardisierte Vereinfachungen zur Berechnung verwendet.

Ziel der Masterarbeit ist es, diese vereinfachten Modelle daraufhin zu überprüfen, inwieweit sie die typischen Gegebenheiten bei der Kapitalanlage deutscher Lebensversicherungen geeignet abbilden. Zu diesem Zweck soll ein generisches Portfolio, wie es für einen deutschen Lebensversicherer typisch ist, hinsichtlich seines Spread-Risikos analysiert werden. Die Ergebnisse sollen dann mit den aufsichtsrechtlichen Standardformeln verglichen werden.

Benötigte Vorkenntnisse: Finance; Vorkenntnisse im Bereich Lebensversicherung sind hilfreich, aber keine notwendige Voraussetzung.

Dies Masterarbeit findet in Kooperation zwischen dem Institut für Strategische Unternehmensführung und Finanzierung sowie dem Institut für Versicherungswissenschaften statt und soll auf Englisch verfasst werden.

Wenn Interesse besteht, bitte Andre Guettler kontaktieren.


Available Bachelor thesis topics

Asset management and asset pricing:

A1. Initial Coin Offering (reserved)

The thesis should explain the relatively new phenomenon Initial Coin Offering (ICO). It should shed light on the reasons for ICOs, give an overview of the market (number and volume of ICOs), and the regulation in important markets. Please contact Andre Guettler  if you are interested. Thesis can be written in English or German.


A2. Sentimental Sentiment Indicators?

Statistics units from central banks and alike provide a battery of sentiment indicators, which are supposed to contain predictive power for capital markets and future real activity. The aim of the thesis is to calculate a sentiment indicator from Google Trends, WHO and OECD data, and assess whether this indicator has a higher predictive power than commonly used indicators such as the Michigan Consumer Index. If you are interested in this topic please contact Patrick Launhardt. Thesis can be written in English or German.


A3. The Price-Output ratio in Real Time

Rangvid (2006 - Output and Expected Returns) shows the price-output ratio to have predictive power for future stock returns. However, Ghysels et al. (2018 - Forecasting through the Rearview Mirror: Data Revisions and Bond Return Predictability) find reduced predictive power for macro variables in case of bond returns if real-time data are used. This thesis aims at reassessing whether the price-output ratio predicts future stock returns if real-time data is utilized. Basic results of Rangvid (2006) shall be recalculated. If you are interested in this topic please contact Patrick Launhardt. Thesis can be written in English or German.


A4. Does Analyst Forecast Dispersion Explain Stock Market Volatility? - The British Case

This thesis aims to assess whether stock market volatility is related to analyst disagreement. As e.g. defined in Gebhardt et al. (2001 - Toward an Implied Cost of Capital) the forecast dispersion shall be calculated for FTSE 100 stocks. Moreover, as median and mean EPS forecasts are available, reflecting how skewed forecasts are, a new measure of analyst disagreement shall be calculated. Finally, predictive regressions shall be used to assess whether forecast dispersion explains the volatility of the FTSE 100. If you are interested in this topic please contact Patrick Launhardt. Thesis can be written in English or German.


Credit Risk:

C1. Quality and Consistency of Corporate Credit Ratings

Are credit ratings consistent across industries and regions? The thesis should provide an overview of the most recent literature on rating consistency and conduct an empirical analysis using a dataset of corporate issuers that we will provide. If you are interested, please contact Marc Altdörfer.

C2. Structured finance ratings and their role in the financial crisis

Structured finance ratings are an important business segment for the three leading credit rating agencies. At the same time, ratings in structured finance played a significant role in the American subprime mortgage crisis of 2007. This thesis should provide insight into the structured finance rating market, outline the contribution of ratings to the financial crisis and illustrate the developments from a regulatory perspective after the crisis. If you are interested, please contact Marc Altdörfer.



B1. A contemporary survey of literature on regulatory reporting

After the financial crisis of 2008/09, one strand of literature highlighted the weaknesses in regulatory requirements, regulatory reporting and/or implementation of regulations. For example, Behn et al. (2016) show that when the banks use internal models to estimate risk for regulatory purposes, they understate their credit risk. Similarly, Da Veiga et al. (2012) show that the banks understate VAR for reporting purposes. This thesis should provide an overview of the recent empirical literature on regulatory requirements, and reporting behavior of banks. The thesis should also identify avenues for future research. If you are interested, please contact Mahvish Naeem.


B2. Financial crisis and bank performance in Brazil

This thesis should compare the performance of different types of banks in Brazil during the financial crisis of 2008/09. The topic requires comparing the performance of public, private, foreign, and cooperative banks before and after the crisis using measures such as deposits, credit, ROA, ROE, etc. The aim to is find out what type of banks got the worst hit. We will provide the data for this thesis. If you are interested, please contact Mahvish Naeem.


Theses in the area of credit risk or banking

Note that there are usually BSc / MSc topics in the area of credit risk (in particular about credit ratings) and banking available in addition to the stated thesis topics above (in case you don't have any own research idea in mind). In this case we will provide necessary data for your thesis. Please send an email to Andre Guettler if you are interested. 

Research proposals in case you have your own research ideas

The Institute of Strategic Management and Finance welcomes research proposals for empirical student theses (BSc/MSc) in the area of banking, mutual funds, and credit ratings. Proposals are restricted to one page and should describe the research question, the necessary data / how to get access to the data (lack of data is a deal breaker!), and hypotheses. Please note your preferred start date and send your proposal as a pdf file to Andre Guettler

Student theses in cooperation with an industry partner

We particularly welcome student theses that you write in cooperation with an industry partner (e.g., while you are working at a bank as an intern or on an ongoing basis). Please also write a research proposal and clearly state that the thesis should be written in cooperation with an industry partner. The range of topics is wider in the case in which the industry partner provides some supervision and / or data. In the past, students were writing theses with companies such as Commerzbank, KPMG, Savings Bank Ulm, or XAIA. 

Structure, Organization, and Writing Tips


The thesis should usually consist of the following main parts:

0) Title page (title, your name and contact information, abstract, keywords, JEL classification), before this title page you should place the official thesis title page (use these templates).

A table of contents should follow the title page on the next page. There is no need for a list of tables / figures.

1) Introduction (Motivation, what you do in your thesis, your results, literature review and how you contribute to the literature). The page numbers should start with 1 for the first page of the introduction.

2) Data

3) Empirical strategy

4) Results (this section can be split into various subsections e.g. 'Baseline results', 'Robustness checks', and 'Further results')

5) Conclusion

References, Figures, and Tables should be positioned after the body of the text. Figures and Tables should be on separate pages and be self explanatory; for that, you need to write a figure / table caption that is explaining the figure/table. The number of tables is typically 6-10 and the number of figures is 0-3. As seen in the two examples, there is no need to have a list of abbreviations or any other items that can be found in more traditional thesis formats. Make sure that you put all cited papers/ books etc. into your list of references and that the list of references does not include any content that you do not cite in your thesis. Verify carefully that you use a consistent way of referencing (see the two working papers as a template on how to cite and build a list of references). 

Ex. #1      Ex. #2

The total length of the student thesis (including title page, text body, references, figures and tables) should be 40-50 pages. BSc theses should rather target the lower bound, while MSc theses should target the upper bound. Additional results/ programming code / detailed data descriptions etc. can be placed in an Appendix. Use these templates for the official title page and the mandatory declaration.

Note that student theses that are written with an industry partner may have a different structure catering the industry partner's preferences. 


Requirements and further information

Note that all Master theses need to be written in English, while Bachelor theses can also be written in German. In addition, we strongly recommend to avoid using passive voice. Have a look into these great writing tips. Most of the recommendations also apply to a student thesis.

Use Google Scholar or SSRN to search for related literature. You need a sufficient number of references (> 20 for Bachelor theses and > 30 for Master theses); look for top quality academic journals (e.g., see the Handelsblatt journal ranking). It is also very important to discuss your contribution to the literature. 

Don't add new material to your thesis until the deadline. Try to finish the main writing until two weeks before the deadline. Spent substantial time on reading your thesis several times (run the Spelling and Grammar check!) and try to receive feedback from fellow students, friends and colleagues. Avoid to hand in an unpolished thesis that is hard to read and full of typos and wired grammar.

Do not forget to regularly perform a backup! Use external an hard drive and a cloud service provider (such as Dropbox / Google Drive). On the external hard drive, you should mirror the complete computer in order to be able to start immediately from scratch with all of your programs and data in case your computer breaks down. 

We aim to provide critical feedback while you are writing your thesis at our institute. We concentrate on the general research design and in helping you to define interesting and suitable analyses. Thus, we recommend you to meet your supervisor after you have put together first key results. Please note: due to capacity constraints we cannot guarantee feedback to intermediate versions of your thesis.

Once you officially submitted your thesis (see:, we require you to provide us with:

  1. all raw data files that you used for your thesis
  2. commented data/analysis (Stata do) files or other files (e.g., Excel) that you used for your empirical analysis; the raw data and Stata do files will help us in checking your final results.
  3.  all cited references (you can exclude those that are not available as PDF files, such as textbooks)
  4. Put the files for points 2 to 4 into one zip file; all raw files into the folder "raw; all processed data files into the folder "proc"; all Stata code / Excel files etc. into folder "program"; references into the folder "literature". Burn a CD / DVD that you hand at or sent to our Institute before the deadline; alternatively, you can add the CD / DVD to the hard copies that you hand in to the "Studiensekretariat" (Office of the Registrar / Examination Office).
  5. statutory declarations

For selected theses we provide Laptops with a Stata installation for the time of the thesis (if capacity allows). You should also make yourself familiar with Stata before starting with your thesis (e.g., provides great tutorials, movies, web-books etc.).

We also highly recommend ALL Master students to take the course Research in Finance that is usually offered in winter terms. It will provide necessary knowledge on how to build up a data set for your analysis and on how to perform your own empirical analysis (descriptive statistics and cross sectional and panel regression analyses). This course may seem like a lot of hard work for the given credit points but it is a great investment for the upcoming master thesis and the many points you earn for the thesis. 


Anette Lesle
phone: +49 (0) 7 31/50-3 10 31,
                                  -1 53 80
e-mail: anette.lesle(at)


University of Ulm
Institute of Strategic Management and Finance
Helmholtzstraße 22
89081 Ulm