Another win for Tandon financial trading teams!

NYU Tandon’s Finance and Risk Engineering students win big yet again

Team neo Ren tech

Team Neo Ren Tech was one of two teams that took first place prizes at the Twelfth Annual International Association for Quantitative Finance (IAQF) Student Competition

For the eighth consecutive year, students from Tandon’s Department of Finance and Risk Engineering have triumphed in one or more national competitions that tested their knowledge of trading, algorithmic finance, and other vital topics.

In April, two Tandon teams made a first-place showing at the Twelfth Annual International Association for Quantitative Finance (IAQF) Student Competition, which asked participants to develop a highly profitable pairs trading strategy using a choice of any two widely recognized stock indexes, such as the DOW or S&P 500. (Pairs trading or statistical arbitrage is a common trading strategy employed by hedge funds, with the core of the strategy depending on how the prices of two assets diverge and converge over time; in an analogy a layperson can understand — if an item sells in Queens for one price and in Manhattan for another, the savvy businessperson will benefit from having that knowledge and can profit by buying in the outer borough and reselling in midtown — and from realizing when prices reach equilibrium and the strategy becomes ineffective.) Teams were encouraged to use machine learning and advanced analytics to create innovative and original winning strategies. 

Tandon teams were in competition with 25 other teams from 14 universities. Their blind submissions were judged by a panel of experts, and of the five singled out as winners, two were from NYU Tandon teams. That victory echos the 2022 competition, when two of six winning teams hailed from Tandon: in fact, 2023 actually marked the fourth year in a row that the school placed more than one team in the IAQF winners circle.

“Each year, the IAQF presents ever-more engaging and thought-provoking challenge topics,” said Professor Ronald Slivka, who has advised Tandon’s FRE teams for more than a decade. “Every student who participated worked diligently and smartly in devising team solutions, and they excelled at blending theory and practice to come up with ideas that are both Out-of-the-Textbook and Out-of-the-Classroom. The financial industry will be lucky to have them as practitioners.”

Slivka is well-versed in the demands of the industry: his experiences include managing an options portfolio using an innovative mathematically sophisticated hedging strategy at JP Morgan; becoming the first Ph.D. on the trading floor at Salomon Brothers; and designing quantitative derivative solutions for a wide variety of corporations, financial institutions, and investment funds as they sought to control market risks and enhance asset returns. He demurs, however, when it’s suggested that his coaching is the prevailing factor that has allowed Tandon to rack up such a long string of triumphs.

“I’m happy to coach NYU Teams in this and other competitions, but congratulations mostly belong to the students who work so diligently and collaboratively on their submissions,” he asserts. 

Teams also cite Industry Assistant Professor Amine Mohamed Aboussalah — who has worked with the World Bank Group and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, along with launching a quantitative research firm and a political risk consultancy — as a great source of practical guidance; Zahra Patterson, the FRE program manager, also came in for a large measure of praise for her oversight of the myriad administrative details and IAQF communications involved in being a participating university.

The contest was demanding, the students admit, but great preparation for the careers they hope to forge when they graduate.

Winning Teams

Team Neo Ren Tech

Team Neo Ren Tech

  • Aditya Daftari (Captain)
  • Rahul Bhagtani
  • Raktim Roychoudhury
  • Mitun Lakshminarayan
  • Chengzhe Su
  • Joey Yue


Team Smile Like Volatility

Team Smile Like Volatility

  • Kaiyu Gu (Captain)
  • Qi Peng
  • Layla Li
  • Jiaying Yang
  • Xinyi Li
  • Ziyi Zhang

Firsthand impressions

“The appeal — and the challenge — of doing quant research is that it’s so interdisciplinary; it involves computer science, mathematics, physics, machine learning, and more. Competing against other teams in the IAQF event provided a welcome opportunity to put all those disciplines into play the same way they’d be in the professional world.”
– Raktim Roychoudhury

“I’m not sure many people understand the scale and effort that go into excelling at a competition like this, especially when you consider the need to keep up with courses, assignments, and projects; find internships; and all the other things students must do. It’s a major undertaking but a great experience, so a huge shoutout to not just the winning teams but all the participating teams as well.”
– Aditya Daftari

“In the workplace, we’re going to be expected to brainstorm ideas and collaborate with diverse teams on a global level. Competitions like this provide valuable experience, and I hope that coming up with a winning solution as students will translate into coming up with winning solutions when we’re out there doing quant research and managing assets as professionals.”
– Rahul Bhagtani

“It was an honor to captain Smile Like Volatility. One of my objectives was to identify the strengths of each member and ensure that we were leveraging those as effectively as possible. The members of the group each brought something unique to the effort, and I think they exemplified the meaning of teamwork.”
– Kaiyu Gu

“One of the most interesting aspects of the whole project is how different our backgrounds are from each other. For example, I consider myself more of a computer scientist, and I welcomed the chance to put those skills to use to solve problems in the financial engineering world. We each took a deep dive into our individual areas of expertise and, collectively, that was a winning strategy.
– Layla Li

“It wasn’t always a smooth process, but when we hit a roadblock, we persevered. Those specific roadblocks might not have much meaning to a layperson, since they involved our methodology, but the takeaway for everyone is to simply keep trying, because overcoming obstacles just might lead to something really innovative.
–Xinyi Li

“I can’t stress enough how important the support of Professor Slivka and the entire department was to us. Professor Slivka guided us through our literature review–a vital step whenever you tackle a problem of this type–and other professors ensured that their coursework was especially applicable for us. We owe a special shoutout to Professor Mandel, whose lectures on modeling times series was invaluable.”  
– Qi Peng

“I came out of this with a much greater understanding of team dynamics and the importance of communication. At first, we tried working individually, and we discovered that led to a lot of unnecessary overlap; once we began the process of real collaboration, that’s when a path to success became clear. The IAQF challenges don’t  have single, simple solutions, so it definitely takes a team, pulling together and communicating effectively, and I think that will be true in the workworld as well.
– Jiaying Yang