Finance Students Witness Finance Students Witness "Flash Crash" Unfold in Real-Time
Students witnessed the "flash crash" of the Dow Jones Industrial Average real-time in the Center for Trading and Analysis of Financial Instruments.

Scott Steimer '11 never felt as close to a Wall Street trading floor as he did the afternoon of May 6, the "flash crash" of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In a matter of minutes, shortly before 3:00 p.m., stock prices fell by about 6 percent, then recovered almost as quickly.

Steimer watched the drama in the "trading room," formally called the Center for Trading and Analysis of Financial Instruments, a jewel in the crown of a School of Business education.

He was sitting in on a senior-level course that afternoon.

"The class stopped, and we all sat in awe as the numbers cycled downward on the ticker screen," he said. "Watching the class race to see how their investments were doing, I feel like I got a small taste of what Wall Street is really like. I felt like I was on the trading floor of a Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs, and that kind of experience both excites and motivates students to make that dream come true."

The trading room -- dedicated to the study of financial, currency, and commodity markets -- has a large number of workstations to accommodate the finance courses of the School of Business. It's designed to capture the atmosphere of an actual trading environment. Students can access real-time market data received from various exchanges connected to 44 workstations utilizing Thomson Reuters' state-of-the-art Thomson One software package and five workstations in a smaller lab across the hall.

"It is something that sets us apart from other schools," said Steimer. "It's one way that 'little Ithaca' can compete with the bigger schools in providing an experience and an education that prepares us to succeed after graduation."

Working in the trading room is a confidence booster for students.

"You may learn things that are not taught in class just from using the trading room," said Mike Maloney '11. "I have noticed that as I become more comfortable with the tools provided, projects and papers in my business classes seem less daunting, simply because I know I can find the information I need without any problems."

Students know what they learn there boosts their chances to find a job.

"The trading room gave me access to programs that I otherwise never would have learned to use. I felt competent walking into interviews knowing I could draw on my experience with Thomson One and StockVal,'' said Justine Stohler '11. "I love the trading room. It feels like home to me, and both the software and hardware set up in there make it a great place to do work for hours on end.''

Rachel Hart '11 enjoys the trading room so much that she staffed it last fall when there were no classes, so students could use the software.

"I'd go in at 8 a.m., boot Thomson, check out the news and pre-market report, and I'd keep researching or helping other students till my 10 a.m. class," said Hart. "I love feeling informed and up-to-date with the real-time data, research reports, and I also love the Thomson One Excel add-in for building helpful spreadsheets."

Last fall, she took Securities Analysis and Portfolio Management, with class in the trading room two days a week. Each student had to invest a hypothetical $1 million in US securities during the semester. Hart used the trading room at least once a day to read the news, research investments, and track her portfolio.

"When it all really came together, though, was when I used Thomson One's Excel add-in to track my portfolio using live bid and ask prices. This allowed me to check the value of my portfolio up to the minute, so I knew my gain or loss at all times.

"After I built the spreadsheet, I got even more involved in the project. I'd be in the trading room with Thomson on one screen, my portfolio on the other, and I'd research all of my investments, observe how my portfolio reacted to news releases, and buy and sell accordingly.

"I absolutely loved working on that project, and using the trading room was the best way to learn and observe how different stocks would react to changes in the market, and how it would affect your portfolio.''

Stohler took the same class: "Seeing my portfolio value plummet or skyrocket in response to news streaming in on Thomson yields real emotion. You also learn how irrational and unpredictable the markets can be."

Organizations like the Core Trading Consultants also use the trading room. The CTC provide technical assistance on the trading room's software and co-manage (with the school's Financial Management Association) the Ithaca College Mutual Fund.

"I feel the trading room defines who I am as a student and how I want to be remembered at Ithaca College," said Jeffrey Geyer '11, CTC chief financial officer and co-president. "I see the trading room much more than a classroom. To me, it is equally perceived as a professional business environment because of the opportunities it offers and its abilities. Whether it is through student organizations, class work, or personal research, I approach the trading room as an exciting and unique way to accomplish my tasks.''

Students know the trading room enhances the school's reputation. "Many of my classmates have received jobs and internships where they were competing against students from Ivy League schools, and the education provided by Ithaca allowed them to shine above all the others," said Maloney.

To Hart, "the trading room is the heart of the Business School. It really exemplifies what a business education at IC is: real experience, real responsibility, and real opportunity."


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