MFE team challenges the world in competition

They were a confident lot for six guys getting ready to take on the world.

Coached by Western lecturer Harold Hugel, a team of students in Western’s Master of Financial Economics (MFE) program recently competed in the Rotman International Trading Competition, the world’s largest competition of its kind. Going in, team expectations were high – no matter the fact this marked the MEF program’s debut in the competition.

“When they went into it, they were saying. ‘Oh, we’re going to be Top 10,’” Hugel said. “But when they saw the teams there, they thought, ‘OK, maybe the top half.’ They didn’t understand the level of the competition. It was really impressive.

“As the competition went on, and they sort-of settled into it, then there was a reality check. They didn’t think they would get as high as they did at the end.”

Hosted by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, the annual competition brings teams of students and faculty from universities worldwide to participate in a three-day conference. The competition utilizes simulated trading cases that closely mimic different aspects of real-world markets.

In the end, Western placed 14th out of 52 international teams, including taking first place in the Options case. They placed ahead of Stanford, MIT, Duke and Ohio State to name a few high-profile teams.

Western team members included Adir Dishy, Josh Macdonald, Mathieu Parisien, Phil Ruffolo, Gary Shi and John Zondo.

“It was extremely gratifying they did that well,” said Hugel, who was also a first-year coach. “One of the keys to their success was how well the group worked together. There is a lot of prep that goes on beforehand; they were extremely keen about doing that.”

Most schools attend the competition every year, bringing with them both a junior and senior team. Such was the case for every school in the Top 10 places. The strategy allows for continuity from year to year – or what Hugel described as “a valuable legacy.”

Western hopes to implement a similar legacy plan for next year’s team. The current team, still around in the fall given the nature of their program, will train and equip the incoming group. “That’s the institutional memory so important in this competition,” Hugel said.

Beyond the competition, the coach saw the event as an augmentation of the class work the team has been exposed to thus far in their program. As a practitioner more than an academic himself, he knows these tools will matter to the team soon enough.

“I know they’ll take this with them into whatever they do,” Hugel concluded. “It is kind of a reality check. Most of their courses are focused on academia, but this is the real world of stocks, options and futures. It’s a reality check on what happens when you graduate.”

Western’s new MFE program is a four-term, 16-month program, only the second program of its kind in Ontario, following in the footsteps of the University of Toronto. The professional program represents a partnership between the Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences, Department of Economics, Faculty of Law and Ivey Business School.