Top UT Dallas Trader Keeps Focus Amid Frenzy
Finance Senior Proves She’s a Pit Boss Again With 2nd-Place Finish in Houston
May 11, 2011
The din of floor trading — the frenzied shouts, close quarters, emphatic hand signals and fast-paced deal-making — doesn’t rattle School of Management senior finance student Crystal Hu.
Instead, when she jumps into the trading pit, “it’s a stress release,” Hu says. She finds control amid the commotion and uses it to her advantage. She has excelled in trading contests, most recently finishing second in the Houston round of the CME Group Open Outcry Challenge.
“UTD’s all-time best trader, Ms. Hu came through for UT Dallas and the School of Management again,” Frank W. Anderson, director of the school’s undergraduate finance program, said after last month’s challenge, which drew about 90 student contestants from all over the country to the University of Houston.
Anderson was referring not only to Hu’s performance in the April 9 commodities trading simulation but also to her fifth-place finish in Houston last year and to her second-place finish a year ago at the New York Open Outcry, held after-hours on the New York Mercantile Exchange floor.
“Out of the pit, Crystal is reserved and decorous,” Anderson said of Hu, who recently was selected to become a UT Dallas student ambassador. “But on the trading floor, the take-charge side of her personality emerges and makes the most of the business opportunities at hand.”
The commodities at hand in Houston were hypothetical crude oil futures contracts that student competitors bought and sold in timed rounds. Professional floor traders and commodity-exchange officials rated contestants on their ability to execute trades and influence the market. Through three preliminary challenges and a semifinal round, the pros disqualified more and more contestants. In the fifth and final round, the 10 students who remained vied for their position in the top 10.
In the end, only UH student Francis Dorrego, who won $1,000, placed ahead of Hu, who earned $750.
Hu competed as a member of the team from the UT Dallas Financial Leadership Association, which she serves as vice president.
“FLA offers learning and networking and opportunities in finance,” said Anderson, the group’s adviser. “We also encourage members to learn by taking part in competitions like the open outcry.”
Although she found herself more relaxed than last year, Hu acknowledged the Houston challenge was pretty intense.
Observers tend to notice the gesturing, the shouting, the rapid-fire tempo of transactions, but “listening is very, very important, too,” Hu said. “If participants are just yelling and not listening, they’ll be disqualified.”
While she cannot explain her ability to concentrate clearly amidst the hubbub, she agrees with the truism — that “it doesn’t take long to figure out if you don’t like this.”
Hu does — but recognizes that “floor trading will eventually go away,” as more and more, brokering becomes computerized and electronic. “I don’t want this to go away,” she said. “I want this to be a career.”
Networking with the professionals at the Houston challenge, she hopes to have kept open that possibility.
Meanwhile, hedging her own future, she recently started an internship as an analyst at a local investment banking firm. Already having researched companies ranging from scrap metal salvagers to restaurants and retailers, she liked the potential. “I get to see a lot of cool business ideas,” she said.