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thinkorswim Challenge: Simulated Trading Offers Real Rewards

December 8, 2017
thinkorswim Challenge 2017 Winners

Talk about looking good on paper. Three students from Queens College just turned a simulated $500,000 into $2.636 million in four weeks during this year’s thinkorswim® Challenge. It’s the biggest trading win in the competition’s four-year history.

Daniel Baruch, Max Fruchter, and Shlomo Sandler of CUNY Queens College in Flushing, New York, saw a 427.2% increase in their simulated portfolio when the competition, which began October 9, ended on November 4. The three teammates were among a total group of 2,507 students participating this year. In all, there were 930 teams, with 327 schools represented in 49 states.

As the first-place winners, the three students each received $3,000 deposited into a TD Ameritrade brokerage account, plus a 64 GB 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Their school, CUNY Queens College, receives a $30,000 donation from TD Ameritrade.

How’d They Do It? Communication …

Two members of the team, Baruch and Fruchter, already had some experience with trading before joining the challenge. For Sandler, the challenge was an opportunity to learn about trading.

Fruchter says the team kept in constant communication to exchange ideas and weigh potential trades. The discussion would heighten if there was any significant news surrounding a particular security, industry, or global matter. “There weren’t disagreements, although at points we did probe into one another’s rationale if the trade seemed difficult to understand,” he says.

Baruch says the challenge gave him the chance to try trading strategies and ideas that he had been unable to test with his own money or trading account. “The ability to buy and sell options allowed me to experiment,” he says.

… and Options

The Queens College team traded options exclusively. They placed 942 paper trades during the competition—the most trades of any team—and 100% of their trades were options. 

The three had profits of over $200,000 each in eight specific tickers. Options on Amazon (AMZN) accounted for 5% of their overall trades, making it their most popular trade, says Susan Newman, Specialist, Trader Ops and Education for thinkorswim.

Baruch says he spent a lot of time on the thinkorswim platform, and really kicked his trading into high gear near the end of the challenge when he saw the team was falling behind. He traded actively on the last day of the competition and made nearly $1 million by the market close. That brought the team back to first place.

The winners weren’t the only students trading options. Newman notes that of the 38,600 virtual trades placed by all students, 77% were options trades. The remainder were stock trades (21%) and a few exchange-traded funds (1%). Tesla (TSLA) was the most popular product traded in the competition, at 4% of all trades.

How did they feel when it was all over? Baruch says he and the team would participate again, calling it a “fun, exhilarating, and competitive experience that lets you see if you’re as good as you think you are.”

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