Students from the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) were among the top three finalists in both the first and second annual Stock Market Competition at UCI, showing how combining computer science skills with financial knowledge can be a lucrative endeavor. Senior YuHeng Li, majoring in informatics and minoring in economics, took second place this year, earning $750 for his strategy to invest $100,000 in virtual funds. Last year, computer science major Praneet Sah took third place as a freshman, winning $500. Both were able to leverage their technology background throughout the four-month competition, which aims to teach financial literacy to undergraduates.
For Li, a transfer student from China who had previous experience trading in cryptocurrency, the competition’s investment workshops provided a solid background about the U.S. Federal Reserve System. “I didn’t have any experience in American stock trading, so I had to learn a lot of things about the American economy.” Furthermore, as a finalist, he was able to present his investment portfolio to a panel of judges composed of executives from growth management firms. “They gave me some very pragmatic, critical advice,” says Li — advice he plans to apply when he starts working at a private equity firm after graduating this spring.
More importantly, the competition provided a practical way for Li to combine his informatics and economics education. “I used patterns and programing languages to scrub the data and analyze the stocks,” he says. Sah says he similarly applied his computer science skills to easily filter out lower performing companies.
“In the real world,” says Li, “we will need to combine knowledge from a lot of different areas like chemistry and finance and programming to make money or develop innovative solutions.” He stresses how competitions like this can help build this critical “multicurricular knowledge.”
In fact, Sah is helping to build such knowledge with a student club he started shortly after last year’s competition. At the workshops, he met Rahul Vig and Jonathan Bravo, and the three likeminded students founded the Hedge Fund Society, the only investment club on campus. “It was going to just be on the investment side, with five to six people pooling our own money and investing in the market and having our own fund,” says Sah. They created an LLC for investing but then decided to branch out and offer weekly workshops for society members. “The teaching actually took off really well,” says Sah. “We have taught people from so many backgrounds — we had one person show up who is a dance major.”
In Fall 2018, the society’s workshops covered fundamental analysis, and in Winter 2019, they covered technical analysis. This quarter is focused on derivative trading.
“Finance is not really what you see in movies like The Wolf on Wall Street,” says Sah, explaining that he wants people to understand that a lot more studying and reading are involved. But he compares it to addition. “Once you get the fundamentals, there’s so much you can do with it.”
— Shani Murray