May 2018 – A disciplined team of four Drew University students caught a glimpse of what the real world may have in store for them after graduation as they traded commodities online and advanced to a championship round of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group’s Trading Challenge.
The challenge is a four-week competition where teams trade future commodities, including wheat, soybeans, livestock, gold and crude oil. Each day, the teams are required to spend at least an hour online and make certain trades, which they research in advance.
Some 550 teams undergraduate and graduate students competed this year and only the top 10 percent made the final round, according to Drew Professor of Economics and Business Marc Tomljanovich. Drew’s team—Josephine Emanuelli, Inji Kim, Nathaniel Lynch and Aylin Unel—finished 14th overall. This marked the fourth consecutive year that Drew students competed in the challenge and Tomljanovich was impressed with the effort.
“They questioned the ‘why’ and the ‘what if,’” said Tomljanovich, faculty advisor to the group. “And their hard work and commitment definitely paid off.”
Kim, a junior majoring in art history and economics, in particular enjoyed “communicating with my teammates and listening to their input throughout the elimination stage and final round.” Similarly, Unel, a junior majoring in economics, appreciated “how four very different individuals can act as a team to accomplish something that none of us could have done individually.”
Lynch’s most memorable moment was when the team, using fake money, followed the soybeans futures and decided to invest all of its money into them. Then news broke that due to a drought in Argentina speculators in the market no longer deemed it worthy to invest in soybeans as they had become overvalued. As a result, prices plummeted and the team was out.
“This was my favorite moment as it taught me that while something can be extremely volatile, it should not be looked at as guaranteed profit,” said Lynch, a junior majoring in economics. “Rather, it should be a factor of how much you are willing to lose and investing in that.”
The top finishing teams were invited to CME Group’s Day of Market Education in Chicago. The goal of the conference was to teach students more about futures trading and other careers in the futures field—aside from being a trader. Emanuelli, a junior majoring in economics and environmental science, attended on Drew’s behalf.
“This day helped me prepare for the future as I now have a deeper understanding of financial markets that I will be able to take with me regardless of where my career takes me,” Emanuelli said. “I also gained confidence in my ability to analyze situations and make decisions based on the information available.”
Tomljanovich was instrumental in the entire experience, Emanuelli added. “He taught us to be confident with our decisions and to go big or go home,” she said.