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From Ready Trader One to Trader

March 5, 2021

We spoke to the 2020 winner of Ready Trader One – Jason Ruan about his experience of the challenge last year and what it has been like starting as a Graduate Trader at Optiver.

What did you learn from RT1?

My biggest take away is definitely understanding exactly how market making works in the financial markets. All the related concepts (i.e. ETF, orderbook, bids and asks, P&L) become clearer in practice, compared to the theory I learned reading about it. Also, I now know how technological infrastructure and software engineering supports successful trading in the in the market. Trading is not all about finance. Technology is such an important component in the market.

How did you approach the challenge?

My team tackled the problem in four steps.

  • Conceptualizing: understanding the financial markets and related concepts, understanding the codes for the autotrader and how the codes work and coming up with a basic trading strategy.
  • Brainstorming and researching: Thinking about what fields could be improved (i.e. pricing, bid size etc.) for the trading strategy.  Then, allocate the different research fields to the group members to polish the strategy.
  • Testing and analysing: We tested lots of strategies and did lots of parametric studies on the variables in the strategies. Apart from the P&L, we also analysed the code to see what would make the strategy work and what makes it fail.
  • Decision making: The various strategies all had different strengths and weaknesses. Before the submission, we needed to figure out which strategy has the biggest possibility of winning within the market.

What advice do you have for participants?

It will be very important for the participants to understand how the autotrader works in the market. Thought the task of the game is to only generate a market making strategy, it is valuable for the participants to understand how the other system (provided) works. Do not get too deep into the research. When you have an idea, write it into the code and test with the strategy which will help you to know whether you are on the right track.

How has RT1 prepared you for your role as a grad trader at Optiver?

Technically the game provides loads of knowledge on how market making works and the various techniques that are important in trading. Mentally, RT1 consolidated my idea that even science students with no financial or actuarial  background could also do very well in the market. Ready Trader One is an outstanding experience, you are able to speak to people in Optiver and discuss your code and strategy which is really exciting.

Is trading at Optiver what you expected it to be?

I will say trading at Optiver is more exciting than I expected. You are surrounded by incredible talent in the building. You talk to your colleagues and leaders directly and without restriction. It is all about the culture at the company which is really great.

What skill set do you think is needed to be a trader?

Some of the words that come to mind: competitiveness, team-work, integrity and growth mindset.

Jason with the Ready Trader One