MFE Students Win First Berkeley Trading Competition

Varun Tomar and Weijian Chuah, both students in the Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering (MFE) Program, bested 13 other teams to win the business school's first ever Berkeley-Haas Trading Competition on Thursday (Sept. 12).

As winners, Tomar and Chuah will be part of a six-person team that represents Berkeley-Haas in the Rotman International Trading Competition in Toronto in February.

Students competing in the four-hour Berkeley Competition were required to trade in five different cases, each involving two to five subheats of five to 20 minutes each. The fast-paced cases included a mergers and acquisitions scenario in which students receive updates on votes for and against the deal; an options case with puts and calls; a commodities case involving oil,  gasoline, and heating oil; and an algorithmic trading case that tested how well students could program an algorithm to adjust to changing market conditions.

"You are under a lot of pressure for each heat but you get to do it five times," Tomar says. He and Chuah attributed their success in part to working on practice cases every day during the week leading up to the competition.

The real competition is different from the cases, however, because the variables change and more groups are trading against each other, says Aaron Nebres, the MFE lab manager. "Timing is key because if you want to trade at a particular price, you have to get there before someone else," Nebres explains.

Students utilized the same order management system employed by the leading trading firms and financial institutions on Wall Street. "It gives them valuable experience to mention during an interview," says Charles McCutchen, the High Frequency Trading Lab manager.

For Tomar, the competition also was a good way to test his own trading skills. "I have been trading personally in my own account, and I was making money. But I wanted to see where I stood against my peers," says Tomar, who has a programming background and hopes to become a trader after graduation.

Chuah, who studied mathematics and economics and previously worked as a quantitative analyst, is also interested in a trading career. "It was fun," he says of the competition. "We learned a lot and we got to test our skills under pressure. I love doing things like this—competing with others in a fast-paced environment."

Competition winners Weijian Chuah and Varun Tomar, both MFE 14