Alumni & Donors

Trading Day Offers High School Students 'Real-World Learning at its Best'

Newark High School students and advisors celebrate a hard-won victory at Trading Day.
Twenty high school teams competed in Trading Day 2015, with Newmark High School students, pictured with their advisors, taking top honors.

It’s hard to imagine something better than helping your students take top prize during Trading Day at Stevens Institute of Technology.

But how about the thrill of celebrating that victory at your alma mater?

Trading Day brings a wide audience of high school students from throughout New Jersey and New York City to Stevens, many of whom are visiting for the first time. But this year, it was alumnus Bruce DiBisceglie and his team of student traders from Newmark High School that got to celebrate a hard-fought victory.

DiBisceglie was ecstatic Friday as he watched his team compete on the trading floor of the high-tech Hanlon Financial Systems Lab in the university’s second annual Trading Day.

“To come back here with my students, to where it all started for me at their age — I don’t have a command of the English language to put this into proper terms,” DiBisceglie said. “But it is an unbelievable feeling. Proud times a hundred.”

Trading Day is an opportunity for high-achieving high school students to spend a day on the Stevens campus, competing in a frenetic portfolio management contest that’s conducted in real time, thanks to the technology available in Stevens’ Hanlon Lab. Each student team was given 90 minutes to build and manage a stock portfolio, and used live market data and information from Bloomberg and CNBC to take positions on various companies in a bid to get the best return.

The students on the winning team — Danny Cuesta, Patrick Lum, Eliana Schulman, Luigi Giustra and Marc Genser — received a plaque, a tour of Bloomberg’s offices in New York, a copy of “Flash Boys” — the Michael Lewis book about high-frequency trading that prominently features John Schwall ’95 ’98, a Stevens alumnus and co-founder of IEX Group — and a scholarship to the Stevens summer business program.

'This is real'

The runner up to Newmark was Bronx High School of Science, while teams from Passaic Valley Regional High School and Middlesex County Academy were honored as the most spirited teams of the competition. Passaic Valley’s enthusiasm was on display from the opening bell: Students had a number of props — from a giant cutout of Warren Buffett’s head, to a ceramic model of the Charging Bull statue, to various hats — from what adviser Kevin Ketcho called his “box of mojo.”

“This comes from three decades of investing,” Ketcho said. “It’s like a four-leaf clover. I want my kids to be lucky.”

Luck, though, isn’t the only thing Ketcho’s students get in his classroom. His lessons emphasize risk tolerance and reflect his admiration of Buffett — “not only is he patient, when he’s patient, he waits patiently.”

Trading Day, he said, “is absolutely real-world learning at its best. Stevens throws them right in the shark tank. This is real.”

And the lessons are much different than other stock market games his students have done, he added.

“What this teaches is risk tolerance,” he said. “It teaches these kids how to be crazy, and how not to be crazy — balanced, you’d say, a little conservative, a little crazy. Risk tolerance is what I teach in all my classes. So I love this, I’m very excited by it.”

Participants also got to experience a day in the life of a business student at Stevens. They spent the day with a Stevens student ambassador, met with professors in each of Stevens’ seven business majors, toured the campus and learned how to effectively position themselves for college.

A key focus, of course, is the technology that has changed everything about finance and the markets. The sense of awe on students’ faces when they see the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab for the first time is unmistakable.

“I was amazed — it put a smile on my face,” said West Essex High School student Jake Siciliano about his first impression. “You walk up here and see the tickers, the TVs on, there are charts up — it’s great.”

The technology advantage

“By the time they’re ready to graduate, Stevens students almost take the technology here for granted, which is why 95 percent of our students are placed within six months of graduation,” said Dr. Ann Murphy, associate dean of the undergraduate division at Stevens’ business school. “For the high school students, coming to our campus validates everything they’ve heard about technology’s growing role in finance and on Wall Street. They get to see and touch the tools that prepare our students to get jobs and internships at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and elsewhere.”

To illustrate that point, alumni from MetLife, JPMorgan and other companies in New York — clearly visible from Stevens’ Hoboken location — were on hand to network with students and demonstrate the value of an education that combines business and technology. Heather Bennington ’07, a senior privacy consultant at MetLife, said her coursework prepared her to handle compliance issues at the insurance giant.

“It’s great to have the business and technology expertise, because I work with the business people who sell our products, and then I talk to the tech guys about cybersecurity and breaches and preventing them,” Bennington said. “It’s really a great use of the major.”

The students participating in Trading Day, she added, “are very motivated. They know what they want to do and it looks like, from seeing them in the lab, they’re going after it. I’m very impressed by their motivation and intelligence.”

Students work the market as Stevens alumnus John Schwall watches.
John Schwall, top center, a Stevens alumnus and COO of IEX, watches as a team of students uses the finance technology to analyze stock performance during Trading Day.

Schwall, who earned an undergraduate degree in engineering before returning to complete a master’s degree in Technology Management, called the event “an amazing program” and said he wished the university had something like it when he was a student.

He also said he could see “a little bit of perspiration on some of the faces.”

“You could tell some of the students were more the risk takers, and some of the people were more risk averse — so you saw a microcosm of a traditional trading desk right here,” he said.

Schwall, chief operating officer and co-founder of IEX, rang the closing bell to end the morning’s trading session, congratulating the students on their dedication and enthusiasm.

“I hope you got a sense of how the market works, and that we can try to achieve something good in the markets in the future with some of these future college students and future professionals,” Schwall said.