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Interactive Brokers Names Top Student Traders

Interactive Brokers Group (IBG) named University of Texas graduate student Patrick Christmas the winner of its first annual electronic trading Olympiad.

Interactive Brokers Group (IBG) named University of Texas graduate student Patrick Christmas the winner of its first annual electronic trading Olympiad. The 10-week trading contest was open to computer science and engineering majors at North American colleges and universities.

Each participant started with $100,000 in phantom money and was given access to Greenwich, Conn.-based IBG's Trade Workstation Application Program Interface (API), which simulates trading and IBG makes available to professional traders. Participants used IBG's technology to create their own algorithms and generate orders.

Christmas earned $120,000 in profits using his computer algorithms to trade equities. "He had never traded before," says Steve Sanders, IBG's managing director, business development and marketing. "He's a technologist at heart. We find that our most successful people are technologists, not necessarily traders."

IBG, an electronic market maker, says it spearheaded the contest to promote the growing need for engineers and computer science professionals in the financial services industry and attract talent.

According to Sanders, Christmas read the contest documentation and probably spent about 50 to 60 hours writing and testing his model to make sure it worked. IBG's Trade Workstation API simulator allows users to test their models with real-time market data, Sanders says, noting that Christmas' strategy was based on volumes in the market.

As the winner of the Olympiad, Christmas was awarded $50,000 in real money from IBG, which also will match that amount as a donation to his school, the University of Texas. As part of the contest, IBG is giving away $358,000 in prize money - $158,000 in prizes to students and another $150,000 in matching prizes to their colleges.

According to the results posted on the firm's Web site, there were 21 first-, second- and third-place winners from a wide range of colleges, including Princeton, MIT, Duke, Carnegie Mellon Baruch College/CUNY, UCLA and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

While the first-place winner traded only equities, "We had students that traded in all asset classes," relates Sanders, citing forex, stocks, options and futures. Everybody put together a trading plan before they started, he explains. "We just wanted to make sure that someone didn't decide to bet on something and get lucky," he says, adding that contestants had to apply discipline to their trading strategies.

The trading Olympiad ran from Jan. 23 through March 31. Students were required to generate their orders via a computer program, as simple as Excel, Java, Active X or Visual Basic, says Sanders. IBG, which owns Timber Hill and also provides global brokerage services, spearheaded the contest.

Sanders says he believes in hiring talented programmers and keeping them close at hand. "Though there is the perception that jobs are being outsourced, in the trading world, quick decisions are made, and outsourcing your technology overseas doesn't work. You need your programmers close by," asserts Sanders. Ivy is Editor-at-Large for Advanced Trading and Wall Street & Technology. Ivy is responsible for writing in-depth feature articles, daily blogs and news articles with a focus on automated trading in the capital markets. As an industry expert, Ivy has reported on a myriad ... View Full Bio

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