Professor Rajiv Banker Receives the Award for Lifetime Contribution to Management Accounting

Professor Rajiv Banker was honored this January, 2017 to receive the “most prestigious” Lifetime Contribution to Management Accounting Award of the American Accounting Association. This coveted award is sponsored jointly with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.  The Lifetime Contribution award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to management accounting education, research or practice over a sustained period of time through scholarly endeavors, teaching excellence, educational innovation and service to the profession. The award extends profession-wide recognition to the recipient and promotes role models in management accounting.  Speakers at the function repeatedly referred to the many path-breaking innovations that Banker has introduced during his long career – innovations that have had a major impact on both research and practice in management accounting.

Banker has been publishing in management accounting for the past five decades.  Motivated by interdisciplinary and problem-oriented research,[1] Banker has tackled contemporary policy problems in business and government. In the 1970’s, his research on benchmarking and relative performance measurement using actual data on production and costs (known as Data Envelopment Analysis or DEA) inaugurated a career of fruitful outcomes born of bringing theory to bear in generating and addressing new questions. Since the publication of this research, originating from his dissertation was published in 1984,[2] it has been cited over 14,570 times, and has shaped regulatory incentive pricing dramatically. In fact, most Western European and Latin American countries now base incentive prices for utilities on benchmarked performance using DEA, a development which influences billions of dollars in transactions around the world annually. Banker’s research in the 1980’s maintained an analytical focus and included information economics and agency theory models. Integrating accounting issues with the economics literature on agency, his influential study of sensitivity, precision, and linear aggregation showed how alternative signals should be combined in constructing performance evaluation measures.  It remains required reading in many doctoral programs in accounting even today.[3]

In the 1990’s, Banker advocated and led the way in new empirical research on performance evaluation and cost behavior to complement the earlier almost exclusive focus on analytical research. Conducting a hitherto unprecedented longitudinal and cross-sectional examination of the multi-period impact of alternative incentive plans at several organizations, his research helped provide insights into the relation between incentives and performance.[4]  This research precipitated the dominance of empirical research evident in management accounting today.  In the 2000’s, Banker opened up the black box hiding the dynamic forces that affect cost behavior, a field which has since gained a lot of momentum.  Research on  ‘sticky’ costs documented that costs do not arise automatically, revealing that the real explanation of cost behavior lies in decision making by managers as they trade off various considerations under optimistic or pessimistic expectations.[5]  More recently, in August 2015, Banker’s research that overturned long-held views on the relation between demand uncertainty and cost structure received the most prestigious research award of the American Accounting Association for Notable Contribution to the Accounting Literature.[6] Banker’s talent for creatively synthesizing rigorous theoretical perspectives to address problems of importance to practice has continued to help provide innovative insights of value to management all across the globe. As the 2020’s approach, Dr. Banker plans to begin his sixth decade of work, eager to expand the scope of the field further by considering how the new insights in managerial accounting can help advance research in financial accounting.

[1] Banker, R., and Kaplan, B.S., (2014). William W. Cooper: Innovator, Fighter, and Scholar. Accounting Horizons: March 2014, Vol. 28, No. 1, 193-203.

[2] Banker, R. D., Charnes, A., & Cooper, W. W. (1984). Some Models for Estimating Technical and Scale Inefficiencies in Data Envelopment Analysis. Management Science, 30(9), 1078-1092.

[3] Banker, R., & Datar, S. (1989). Sensitivity, Precision, and Linear Aggregation of Signals for Performance Evaluation. Journal of Accounting Research, 27(1), 21-39.

[4] Banker, R., Potter, G., & Srinivasan, D. (2000). An Empirical Investigation of an Incentive Plan That Includes Nonfinancial Performance Measures. The Accounting Review, 75(1), 65-92.

[5] Anderson, M., Banker, R., & Janakiraman, S. (2003). Are Selling, General, and Administrative Costs “Sticky”? Journal of Accounting Research, 41(1), 47-63.

[6] Banker, R., Byzalov, D., and Plehn-Dujowich, J. (2015). “Demand Uncertainty and Cost Behavior.”