Testing Their Skills: Smithies Will Compete in Midwest Trading Contest

Yuqing Geng '21 (left) and Qiaqia Ji '20 review stock histories in preparation for the Midwest Trading Competition in Chicago. Isabella Zhu '20 is also on the team.

For the past several weeks, Qiaqia Ji ’20 and two fellow Smithies have been exploring what Ji describes as “the intersection between finance and technology.”

That’s what successful investing is all about, says Ji—who is headed to Chicago with Yuqing Geng ’21 and Isabella Zhu ’20—to participate in the annual Midwest Trading Competition at the University of Chicago.

This marks the first time that Smith has fielded a team in the simulated stock-trading contest, which will be held April 13-15. The three Smithies will join students from top-tier colleges and universities in testing algorithms they have developed to make automated trading decisions. Last year, the competition awarded more than $15,000 in prize money, and participants also have opportunities to meet financial industry representatives who sponsor the event.

In preparation for the competition, the Smith students have been teaching themselves about machine learning and mathematical models, and poring over historic stock trading data for three companies that will be used as case studies in the contest.

“After we analyze the historic data, we need to come up with a signal that can tell us when to buy and sell,” explains Geng.

While the students all share a strong interest in financial investing, “a lot of things, like building a model, are completely new to us,” says Ji. “We’ve had to learn a lot in a short period of time.”

An additional challenge is that Zhu is studying off campus this semester at Columbia University, so team members have been communicating via video chat as they create their algorithm for real-time stock trading.

The three students—all members of the Smith College Investment Club—have received support from the college’s Conway Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is funding their travel to Chicago and has put them in touch with Patricia Gillman ’68 and Joanne Poon ’12, who work in the financial industry.

Gillman ’68, an experienced hedge fund attorney, has arranged meetings for the students with representatives of DRW and Peak6 Chicago trading firms. She says she is thrilled to see Smith fielding a team in the trading competition.

“The organizers are very selective about who receives an invitation to compete,” Gillman says. “We are excited and proud to have a Smith team.”

Ji—who recently declared a major in computer science—is looking forward to networking with alumnae as much as she is to taking part in the competition. “We can visit with them even if we don’t win,” she says.

For Geng, who is in her first year at Smith, the competition is a chance to test her skills—and learn new ones.

“I feel like Smith is encouraging us to do something we’ve never tried before,” she says. “The learning process has been pretty exciting!”