"Competing with the engineers from MIT, with finance students from Berkeley and coming out ahead of the best universities in the world was incredibly exciting!"
Riccardo Caruso, Matteo Di Iorio, Dario Occhipinti, Alessandro Piacquadio, Anna Chiara Pizzuti and Jacopo Scarpellino are the LUISS students who have won the most recent Rotman International Trading Competition, the most prestigious university-level financial simulation in the world, which took place in Toronto from February 19 to 21.
Every year Professor Emilio Barone selects the LUISS Blue Team over the course of two seminar cycles, which are open to all interested students. In the last four days, students participate in competitions based on the software developed by the Rotman School of Management of the University of Toronto. The selection is always very difficult: this year, only six students out of over 60 participants were selected. "Usually," explains Riccardo, the team leader and the only one to have won last year as well, "someone from last year’s team is chosen by Professor Barone to stay on for the next year as well, but there are universities that organize more than one team to have a better chance of winning, or which train students over a few years."
Alessandro says, "Training began a month before Toronto, when we found out which six competitions we would have to face. We trained ten hours a day every day for three weeks, up to the day before we left, always working in teams, case by case, to prepare as best we could."
"Each competition,” explains Matteo, “has a different value and we had to divide ourselves up between the different cases, which took place at the same time. In one of the competitions we had to decide, for example, whether to accept or refuse the buying or selling proposals that arrived from mutual funds and other institutional investors for very large quantities that the market couldn’t immediately absorb. In a matter of seconds we had to decide if the proposals were affordable or not."
"The competition that really put us to the test," says Anna Chiara Pizzuti, the only woman in the group, "was the S&P Capital IQ, introduced for the first time this year. We started off with a bit of a disadvantage compared to native English speakers, but we finished in fourth place and it was one of our biggest triumphs!" Another intense moment was the Quantitative Outcry Case: "This involves four people, two traders on the floor and two analysts on the computers. The analysts receive data and news that impact the price of the contract negotiated on the floor. Their task is to process and communicate to the traders what transactions need to be carried out, without using electronic instruments, only gestures."
Dario explains that the team didn’t know who had won the competition until the very end: "When the prizes were awarded at the CN Tower we heard them give Berkeley second place and only then we realized that we had won. It was enormously satisfying for all of us, an unforgettable experience!"
The students who participated are all enrolled in the master’s degree program in Economics and Finance except for the youngest one on the team, Jacopo, who is finishing his bachelor’s degree in Economics and Management: "The thing that scared me the most was to have to compete on cases based on materials that I haven’t studied yet, like Corporate Finance or Stock Market Techniques. Instead we were able to swap and, as I’m a programmer like Dario, I was able to participate in the competitions I was good at, like Algorithmic Trading."
All six students would like to continue to focus on finance and they all agree on what you need to get involved in this field and win a competition like the Rotman: tenacity, team spirit and a lot of preparation. "What I would recommend,” adds Matteo, “is to work hard and train a lot, first to be selected and then for the rest: it is really a great experience."