Futures Look Bright as Stuart Team Places Sixth in Worldwide Trading Competition



By Scott Lewis
Best Hawk student team

Best Hawk, a team of students from Stuart School of Business at Illinois Institute of Technology, showed its acumen in futures trading by placing in the top 1.2 percent of teams globally that participated in the 2022 CME Group University Trading Challenge.

Team members Hui Bao, Jay Kim, Fenglin Wang, and Hanqing Xue are all students in Stuart’s Master of Science in Finance program. Best Hawk placed sixth in the field of 498 teams from 23 countries, third out of the 320 teams from the United States, and first among teams from Illinois.

The annual competition, sponsored by leading derivatives marketplace CME Group, gives students a rare opportunity to engage in real-time trading in a simulated, professional trading platform.

Participants receive hands-on training and use state-of-the-art CQG trading software to execute trades on the CME Globex platform. The CME Group competition products include futures contracts from six asset classes: agriculture, energy, metals, equity indices, interest rates, and foreign exchange. Students make trading decisions based on real-time CME Group data, along with analytics from CQG and live market updates through Dow Jones newsfeeds and the Hightower Report.

Daily standings track and rank the teams’ cumulative trading balances over the four weeks of competition, with cash prizes awarded to the top five teams in the final standings. Throughout the last two weeks of the challenge, Best Hawk hovered in the top five—rising as high as second place—before finishing in sixth place after the final day of trading.

“I am interested in trading and the CME Challenge was a good chance to apply my new trading strategy to see if it works and to compete with hundreds of teams from other universities,” says Bao, who organized and led the team.

“All credit for the outstanding performance goes to Best Hawk team members,” says Associate Professor of Finance Ben Van Vliet, who served as the team’s adviser. “Faculty advisers are really only there to help if asked, and our students didn’t ask much.”

“It was great to emulate the trading experience in a live market data environment,” says Kim, who was competing in the CME Group Trading Challenge for the second time, after participating previously with a different set of teammates.

“Last year, we focused primarily on Bitcoin futures, while this year we focused primarily on large index futures such as the NASDAQ, Dow, and S&P 500,” he says. “We saw more opportunity in the indices, as they tended to be more volatile, liquid, and manageable in terms of risk. Also, the dynamics of the two years were very different, because last year was rather bullish and this year was rather bearish.”

Xue viewed the competition as an opportunity to put his learning into hands-on practice as well as to build up his resume for his job search. “The CME Challenge tested us to maintain a calm mind when future prices were increasing or decreasing rapidly,” he says, “and it also tested our teamwork and communication skills.”

Photo: [From left] Hui Bao, Jay Kim, Fenglin Wang, and Hanqing Xue