College students showcase skills in financial markets at MIT trading competition

A group of College students who are looking toward careers in financial markets had a strong showing in the MIT Quantitative Trading Competition last month, making connections with the nation’s premier financial firms and with their future business peers.

Ten students from UChicago Careers in Business: Financial Markets competed in teams against students from MIT, Harvard, UPenn, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Baruch, Wellesley, NYU and Boston University. Among the UChicago group’s achievements at the competition, fourth-year students Julia Chang and Steph Mui won the electronic commodities trading event.

UChicago Careers in Business: Financial Markets is a selective program within Career Advancement that offers students hands-on, practical experience with careers in financial markets. The program involves weekly workshops; training in technical methods, models that drive market operation, trading ethics and market regulation; and onsite experience with some of Chicago’s top proprietary trading firms.

“This competition creates a rich learning environment for the students, giving them direct experience with making financial decisions in a high-stakes and high-adrenaline environment,” said Darrell Zechman, program director for UChicago Careers in Business within Career Advancement.

“In order to compete and win at this level, the students demonstrated skills in mathematical modeling, programming, and other quantitative topics, and the ability to creatively apply those skills to real-world problems,” he said.

The students were given cases a week before the MIT contest and built models in Excel to assist with trading decisions and to link with the trading platform. The competition was a simulation of electronic and open-outcry stock exchanges. The students shouted and used hand signals to buy and sell orders for the open outcry and sweated over laptops during the electronic trading.

“I wanted to see how well I could perform and operate in an environment where I would be forced to process information quickly and have to make swift, decisive decisions based off that information in order to be successful,” said Luke Multanen, third-year mathematics student who is preparing for a career as a trader.

He says he joined the MIT competition to see if he has what it takes to be successful in finance.

Like many of the students on the simulated trading floor and stock exchange, Multanen found the fast pace of the competition exhilarating. “A position that initially looked solid could turn sour very quickly based off new information that we received—we had to be willing to completely flip our positions in a split second,” he said.

The cases this year were quantitative open outcry for index futures, electronic sales & trading, electronic price discovery, electronic volatility arbitrage and electronic commodities. The event was sponsored by some of the country’s premier trading firms, including DRW, JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Citadel, Element Capital and Flow Trading.

The UChicago students’ many opportunities to network with representatives from these firms during the event was capped by an exclusive congratulatory dinner with DRW Trading Group, the firm headed by University Trustee Don Wilson, AB’88.