Baruch Undergraduates Sweep Traders@MIT Competition

The competition was the toughest in the nation and the win, unprecedented. In November, three two-student teams from Baruch College placed first, second, and third in the Ninth Annual Traders@MIT Fall Intercollegiate Trading Competition, the country's largest student-run contest of its kind.

The six Baruch winners were among more than 90 undergraduates representing 12 schools including MIT, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, University of Chicago, and NYU.

The triple-shot win was the culmination of Baruch's upward trajectory at other highly competitive national events, including second place in both the UChicago Midwest Trading Competition in April and in last year's Traders@MIT contest. (Earlier in 2016, Baruch's Masters in Financial Engineering students took first place at the 13th Annual Rotman International Trading Competition.)

At the MIT contest, the winning teams were:

  • First: Bell Chen ('17) and Kevin Cheng ('17)
  • Second: Raymond Wong ('17) and Lirek Kulik ('18)
  • Third: Dmitriy Treyger ('17) and Mike Szczepankiewicz ('17)

All are members of the Baruch Traders Club, which started in April 2015. The club's faculty advisor, Jarrod Pickens, PhD, a math lecturer, says, "It just goes to show how dedicated and prepared our students were, and how well they were able to stick to the strategy that they developed."

The Road to the Top

According to everyone involved, the Traders Club, which meets in the trading-floor environment of Baruch's Subotnick Financial Services Center, was instrumental in the teams' success. Teams who will represent Baruch at the trading contest are chosen via in-house competitions that use mock cases and start prepping four to six weeks in advance. Then, a week before the competition, they receive the actual case package from MIT. According to Mr. Treyger, "In addition to practicing trading and developing strategies, we had to create models and code...It was a challenge, but we managed to accomplish it."

Dr. Pickens joined Baruch's faculty in 2010 and has coached both undergraduate and graduate trading teams to success. Though this was his first time training a team for Traders@MIT, he coached the winning Rotman team and the second place UChicago team. His prep included advising on software and strategy (see video).

The Secret Sauce

Teamwork—both in preparing for and competing at the contest—was key to Baruch's success. Says Mr. Cheng about his partner, Mr. Chen, of their first-place win: "We've known each other since freshman year and we've taken almost all the same math classes. We know that we can trust each other and that played a huge role in the competition."

The second-place team benefitted from a mixture of preparation and intuition: Mr. Wong's experience in previous competitions (he was part of the winning Rotman team) and Mr. Kulik's coding work. According to first-time competitor Kulik, who was relatively new to coding, "I was thrown into a situation where all of the cases relied almost entirely on the code; it was a very good learning experience." For Mr. Wong, the challenge was "learning how to perfectly trade on trading day. Once [Lirek] finished his preparation, I knew how to prepare for the actual trading."

The Big Day

The competition consisted of four cases:

  • Quantitative Outcry
  • Options
  • Price Discovery
  • FX Algo Trading

In addition to developing models and writing code, the teams used whatever they could do to speed up and smooth out the trading process, including hand signals, color-coding words (green: buy; red: sell), bringing additional monitors, and having water and Red Bull on hand. "All these things gave us a sense of confidence and reassurance that we would do well," says Cheng.

Wong and Kulik's preparation really kicked in during the FX case, when the profit suddenly dropped. A similar plunge, followed immediately by a rebound, had occurred during the team's extensive back testing. "Others cut the cord on the code as soon as it starting dropping," says Kulik. "We kept it running and we were rewarded in the end." Each Baruch team's ultimate strategy was to stick to their strategy.

What It Takes

Trading is a very specific skill, one that relies on both a strong math background and intuition. According to Pickens, Baruch Traders Club members have studied math, finance, and programming—all excellent competition preparation. Aspiring club members need no trading experience to join, Pickens says; the club's very purpose is to nurture the trading instinct in anyone who is interested in trying.

For several of the Traders@MIT winners, a job in trading is a given. Cheng already has a post-graduation job lined up at Group One Trading. "I think that options trading would be the perfect place for me," he says. Chen has an internship at Wolverine Trading, which may evolve into a full-time position, and Treyger, who has only been involved in trading for a year, is looking for a full-time position while Kulik is seeking internships in the field. As for Wong, who is applying to Baruch's MFE program, "I'm fully pushing for trading; anything else isn't really interesting to me."

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