Students play stock exchange
Melcher Hall was transformed Saturday into the heart-pounding trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Students from more than 25 universities competed in the open outcry phase of the Group Commodity Trading Challenge CME, and for the third consecutive year, a UH student placed among the top three winners.
The trading challenge was started by the New York Mercantile Exchange and UH eight years ago. The number of schools competing in the electronic and open outcry trading competition has since then expanded to include schools from across the country.
The electronic team-based trading ran in two parts, trading Crude Oil and Gold Futures on the floor.
The preliminary round ran from Feb. 2 to Feb. 20 and the national finals from Feb. 24 to March 6.
The outcry portion of the competition was optional and based on individual performance with rounds at UH, Hofstra University and Columbia University.
University of Texas accounting junior Uren Dhanani has competed in the open outcry event for the past two years and said that while the open outcry may be dated, it’s still a great experience.
‘No one does (open outcry) anymore,’ Dhanani said. ‘It’s all electronic. But I think it’s a good experience. You actually get to see how people are reacting and what’s actually going on. When you’re sitting in front of a machine you don’t get the whole picture of what’s happening.’
UH finance senior Lam Mai enjoys the exhilaration of the trading floor.
‘It feels like a rush because you don’t know when you might call something wrong,’ Mai said. ‘You put pressure on yourself because you have to do things right. If not, you’re going to be eliminated. Every round is a different game.’
Mai said the CME workshop at Bauer is good preparation for the challenge.’
‘We have a workshop which explains everything,’ Mai said. ‘From how to fill out the paper work, how to trade and what we should call out, to the hand signals and what we should listen for. We try our best to do everything right. It just depends on the market flexibility.’
Susan Nguyen, spokesperson for Bauer College of Business’ CME workshop, said she believes the practice helps the students overcome being shy on the trading floor.
‘The purpose of the workshop is to get them comfortable with yelling and writing down their trades on their cards,’ Nguyen said. ‘We wanted to eliminate the shyness of yelling in front of other people. Once we got over that, everyone started yelling and trading like they knew each other forever.’
Students practiced multitasking in the pit and utilizing correct hand gestures for buying and selling.
‘They practice recording how many options they sold at what price. The multitasking can be difficult, so practicing helps,’ Nguyen said. ‘When using hand motions, the push away gesture means you want to sell. When you want to buy, then you bring your hands toward your body.’
About 25 students attended the first workshop, and Nguyen said she thinks these classes give UH students a definite edge over the competition.
‘We have the trading materials to practice with, unlike the other schools,’ Nguyen said. ‘We have three workshops prior to the real competition and getting the students to practice helps them remember the basics.’
Jonathan Hoang, pre-business sophomore and Promotions Officer for UH Financial Association, placed third in Saturday’s competition and took home $250 in prize money.
‘If it looks intense from the outside on the inside it’s multiplied by 10,’ Hoang said.’ ‘At the end everyone comes out sweaty and even though there’s just 15 minute rounds it feels like you’re running a mile.’ Everyone is using (his or her) eyes and ears to make that one connection with someone.’ You’re screaming your lungs out but you’re still focusing. It’s a controlled chaos.’
Hoang said he hopes to return next year in part because of the real world experiences he’s gathered from the competition.
‘It helps me understand market situations and (how) trading should work,’ Hoang said.’ ‘It’s just like learning a new language. You can read about it all you want in books, but until you are immersed in the environment, you can never really pick it up.’
The other top winners from Saturday’s event were Andrew Smith from UT, who took first place and a $1000 prize, and William Cashmareck from UH, who took second and a $500 prize.
Hoang said his favorite parts of the competition were getting to know the other students and showing them what UH has to offer.
‘I enjoyed meeting everyone from all those schools,’ Hoang said. ‘I like knowing they had a good time and they come out of it realizing how great a school UH is and what a great business college we have here overall.’