Baruch ‘Quants’ Ace International Contest

Students in Baruch College’s Masters in Financial Engineering program are ready to trade on Wall Street. Two teams from the program won first and fourth places in the prestigious 2012 Rotman International Trading Competition, at the University of Toronto in February, vying with 48 other teams from 44 academic institutions. Last year Baruch placed third.

“It’s simply a testimony of what we’ve known all along — employers do not just hire our students, they actively seek out our students,” says Dan Stefanica, director of Baruch’s MFE program. “The competition showcases the excellence of our students and it sends the right message, not only to prospective employers, but to those looking to study at Baruch, and to the entire world.”

Competing teams engaged in simulated trading cases that closely mimic real-world financial markets. In one, a commodities case, they traded in spot oil, oil futures and oil products, and could lease storage, transport and refineries. During the case various profit opportunities appeared, like news-driven trading or price differences of oil in various physical locales. Another case involved two analysts with access to computers and spreadsheets, who communicated with two floor traders to trade index futures.

“This is one of the few competitions that are worth going to, and schools send their top talent,” says Eugene Krel, an adjunct professor and Baruch College MFE ’09 graduate, who coached the first-place team. “We have competitions internally at Baruch, so you know that you’re facing the best people.”

Each Baruch team had four students and even though teams from the same school were essentially competing against each other, they were also allowed to share information and strategy with each other. Krel, who took part in the competition in 2009 and now works for Quantitative Brokers, says he had been preparing students for the competition since September.

Zhechao Zhou, originally from China, attended Bard College before enrolling in Baruch’s MFE program. She was in charge of writing strategy for two cases. Her team, which came in fourth, would look for signals in the spreadsheets she had created to decide what trade to make.

“Trading at the competition is a simulation, but it’s very helpful for me if I want to find a trading job,” says Zhou. The experience is useful “to understand the material in trading classes, how agents interact with each other and how the price moves around.” Although trading jobs are hard to come by these days, Zhou hopes that the experience will lead to a quantitative-support job, a position that involves writing mathematical models to support the traders.

Stefanica says the Rotman competition gave students a taste of the highly competitive world of finance. “Getting a job in the financial industry is not to be taken for granted,” he says. “You compete for one job with hundreds of people. You have to be competitive and prepared.”