Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
This Monday, financial study association FS Focus organized the Maastricht leg of the international Traders Trophy, a competition in which students with a knack for the stock market attempt to become the most successful stockbroker during a simulated day of hectic trading. The day’s five best performing students would advance to the national finals – last year won by a Maastricht student – in Amsterdam, where they would compete for a place in the international championships to be held in Sydney.
At the start of the day, the IT setup at School of Business and Economics is letting the organisation down a bit: linking up the 40 or so laptops that will be used to run the market simulation program is turning out to be quite a hassle. Maarten Jacobs, in charge of the day’s proceedings, is somewhat bemused, but jokes: “When the real markets open, there’s not generally someone there who asks if everyone is logged in all right.”
The students waiting outside vary in their level of seriousness: some are just here for a laugh, but others have practised at home. Ruben Beekmans, a third-year Econometrics student, is confident that he and his friends will be attending the Amsterdam finals: “We’re all going, so I’m afraid that there’s only one spot left.”
While the simulation is running, students are frantically competing against each other to ensure the highest profits, the best management of their financial risk, and the best price quotes for their clients. Buying stocks at the lowest possible price, selling high, taking the right long and short positions, and dealing with the eight phone lines on which other parties in the market wish to make trades are all crucial to their success. At the end of the day, the final spots are awarded to Andreas Schaich, Michael Hagen, Anja Ong, Florian Jeschke and Rick Bruinzeels.
Optiver, the trading firm that is sponsoring the event, will be offering contracts to the most successful students at the national finals. Don’t trading companies generally employ physics and mathematics students, the real ‘quants’? “We’re mostly looking for people who are extremely able at calculus, but economists can have good insight into the market.” Has the profession changed since the financial crisis? “While risk management is much more important than ten years ago, you still can’t be nervous about dealing with large amounts of money, so it’s okay to view trading as a game that you want to win.”