Students present their trading strategies at the TT CampusConnect Algo Showcase.
I’ve been in the workforce since I was 15 years old. One thing I know is that there’s more to an individual than his or her resume. I’ve worked with geniuses who wouldn’t follow directions and were disruptive in the office, and I’ve worked with those who were invaluable despite their average GPAs. The resume tells you only so much. Sure, accolades are great, but they don’t answer some very important questions. Can the candidate operate in the company’s culture? Can they be part of a team? Are they looking for a career, a job or just a paycheck?
This is why companies spend a lot of time interviewing candidates. According to Glassdoor, the average interviewing process in the U.S. takes more than 22 days. Not all of the delay is due to trouble finding qualified candidates, but it does emphasize how onerous it is to land the right recruit. IGN, a games and entertainment media company, took a leap of faith when they hosted the Code-Foo Challenge, a no-resumes-allowed recruiting event aimed at finding talent without regard to education, degree or experience. Does it matter if candidates went to an Ivy League or community college (or no college) if they can produce? Apparently IGN feels the answer is no.
After spending more than 30 years in Chicago’s futures and options industry, I feel confident saying there are a number of challenges that can only be answered by interacting with candidates and seeing how they perform. Where can I assess a recruit’s understanding of the industry? Are they acquainted with the technology that is prevalent in the markets? How well do they communicate and present their ideas?
The recent TT CampusConnect Algo Showcase held at Trading Technologies’ Chicago headquarters was an effort to answer these questions. It connected university students directly with potential employers. Students from DePaul University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois Institute of Technology (now known as Illinois Tech) and Loyola University of Chicago spent last semester learning about the futures and options industry, the market forces that drive commodity prices and Trading Technologies’ software in an effort to create automated trading algorithms.
At the event, they presented their algorithmic strategies to representatives from proprietary trading firms. Following the presentations, students mingled with firm representatives to share their backgrounds and discuss career opportunities. Firms, in turn, were able to question students to assess their talent (and their algorithms).
The firms that participated did so because they had immediate needs for qualified candidates. They told me they found the event to be extremely valuable. The showcase gave them an opportunity to appraise a pool of 20 candidates by participating in Q&A sessions following each student presentation, giving them an opportunity to challenge and assess the students.
Jim Smith of DV Trading, a proprietary trading firm with six locations in three countries, said, “I think the pressure of discussing something you have just learned in front of a bunch of very successful industry firms is not a task for the faint of heart.”
Fady Harfoush, director of the Financial Services and Analytics Lab at Loyola and one of the Loyola team’s faculty advisers, said the event helped his students “…learn to be good at engaging, communicating and presenting their ideas.”
Students traded commodities on CME Group. Some teams used futures, some options and some both, with strategies focused on a wide variety of products.
Energy products such as crude oil and natural gas futures were traded by teams from Loyola and Illinois Tech. A second team from Illinois Tech chose to predict the next trade in soybeans based upon the activity in the soybean options market. The University of Illinois team traded options on e-Mini S&P futures. And DePaul’s team traded e-Mini S&P options based on moves in the implied volatility.
The firms evaluated each team’s strategy, algo design and presentation. While some teams demonstrated greater success than others, the firms’ evaluations confirmed that the end result the same: all the students moved further down the learning curve.
As DV Trading’s Smith pointed out, “It is always a huge benefit if they (candidates) have some basic industry knowledge, and product knowledge is an added bonus.”
During the post-showcase networking hour at the TT Tech Tap, the interaction between the firms and students was a testament to the value of the event. Students were excited with the potential opportunities presented to them, while the firms were genuinely impressed by the student’s efforts.
With the inaugural TT CampusConnect Algo Showcase behind us, our goal is to make the next one bigger and better. We’ll continue to focus on bringing university talent and industry professionals together, but we’ll enhance the event, bring in new student teams and attract more potential employers. If you’re interested in participating, I’d like to hear from you. Visit our new TT CampusConnect website and fill out the contact form to start the conversation.
Posted by: Leo Murphy, TT CampusConnect™ Program Manager