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Trade Talk Blog: Mind the Gap


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University of Chicago Midwest Trading Competition

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
-Xunzi

When I spend time on college campuses as the manager of the TT CampusConnect® program, the questions I field from educators typically revolve around the best way to equip students with the skills needed to ensure a smooth transition from the classroom to career. While my experience in this regard is limited to the world of futures and options, I’m sure the same is true for any discipline: to set students up for success after graduation, create a learning environment that mirrors the workplace as closely as possible.

That is the mission of TT CampusConnect. Through the program, Trading Technologies collaborates with universities to bridge the gap between the classroom and the trading room. We currently work with 79 schools in 12 countries, donating our software for use in classrooms, trading labs and extracurricular activities such as trading contests.

The University of Chicago has been one of our partner schools since 2005, collaborating with us through the Department of Financial Math. Last year, they approached us with a unique opportunity: would Trading Technologies provide the software for the school’s 2017 Midwest Trading Competition?

The event, which has been held annually since 2013, is billed as “the premier intercollegiate algorithmic trading competition.” It attracts teams from all over the country, last year awarding more than $15,000 in prize money to the top performers. It’s a tremendous opportunity for universities to showcase the caliber of their students and help them make contacts with sponsoring firms that could lead to post-graduate employment.

The university approached TT looking for a new trading platform to meet three key requirements:

  • They needed a stable, robust platform that could handle the messaging volume generated by the algorithms.
  • Instead of using fictitious securities with simulated price action, which was what the previous platform required, they wanted simulated markets that replicated the market conditions faced by professional traders, with real commodity prices, volatility and liquidity.
  • They required a partner that would provide support, working with both the university case writers and the student teams.

Knowing that the TT® platform could fulfill their needs, the university invited Trading Technologies to be the lead sponsor of the competition. When the competition commences next month, the student teams will use the same software that our professional clients use to build, deploy and manage trading algorithms. This experience will provide participants with real-world knowledge and advanced skills that most other students don’t get in the classroom.

Any university from across the country can register a team of undergraduates now through February 12. In prior years, participants have included teams from California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, University of Notre Dame and the University of Southern California.

In coming weeks, the competing teams will participate in online TT platform training sessions. The students will receive two case studies in early March aimed at challenging their abilities to manage market making and correlation trading, then spend several weeks creating trading algorithms, running them against each of the scenarios outlined in the cases studies, and making adjustments before submitting their final algorithms by March 31.

Teams will convene in Chicago for the live-trading portion of the competition. Activities will kick off on Friday, April 7, with several networking sessions involving the students and sponsoring firms. Then on the morning of Saturday, April 8, students will attend the Careers in Trading breakfast panel. The speakers, who will include representatives from Trading Technologies and other sponsor companies, will share their experiences and discuss career opportunities in our industry.

The actual competition will begin after the morning activities. The pre-submitted algorithms will be deployed, and the teams will manage them against the market making and correlation trading case studies. These scenarios will test the students’ futures and options market knowledge, coding skills and teamwork in a simulated market made to mirror real-world conditions.

This level of realismreal software, real markets and real scenariosis what makes the Midwest Trading Competition stand out. Through authentic experiences with TT’s professional trading software, students will further develop the skills that potential employers look for when hiring new graduates, making them better equipped to compete for jobs.

We are excited to be sponsoring the University of Chicago’s Midwest Trading Competition. This type of collaboration between corporate America and academia empowers students to succeedin turn, providing value to the industry. In the end, firms acquire top talent, and students make a smooth transition from the classroom to the trading room. A win-win situation for all.