London School of Economics and Political Science: LSE student wins market-making competition

Finance and Economics master’s student Sylvain Girard has won the 2021 ReadyTraderGo EU/UK competition, organised by global firm Optiver. The prize (shared with his teammate) is €30,000, as well as recruitment opportunities at the firm.

The competition involved over 500 students from across Europe, participating in teams of one or two. As a market-making firm, Optiver’s ReadyTraderGo is an algorithmic market-making contest that tests speed, risk management, accurate estimation, and knowledge of financial instruments.

Before the event, participants were given videos to familiarise themselves with market-making. Once trained, the competition started on 22 October 2021 and culminated on 22 November 2021, after an intense four weeks where teams perfected their Python/C++ code in a simulated market environment.

After every round, they were ranked according to net profit and given simulation histories to review and improve their code.

Describing his motivations for signing up to take part, Girard said: “As I was following the events Optiver offer on a daily basis, I received information about the competition from them. Wanting to learn more about market-making, and being excited about doing my first finance competition, I called Yohaï-Eliel [his teammate] within a minute of learning about the rules of the game.

“To be honest, before receiving the exchange server’s code, I thought this was a data science competition masquerading as a finance competition. But, as it turns out, it was truly specific to market-making”.

Girard’s teammate, Yohaï-Eliel Berreby, described their working relationship as “a very good team dynamic”. The duo had already collaborated on several other technology competitions, winning a cybersecurity contest organised by WaveStone and a four-month ‘datathon’ organised by SCOR, as well as coming runners-up in this summer’s ‘Save the World’ CTF by Orange.

Girard’s teammate, Yohaï-Eliel Berreby, added: “We had planned to collaborate again on such a challenge when we could. I had little knowledge of quantitative finance before this competition, so when Sylvain suggested that I join him, I thought… ‘is it reasonable, time-wise? Probably not. But let’s do it anyway!’”

Their team, ‘Shapeshifters’, performed exceedingly well, with a final net profit more than twice that of the runners-up. Their strategy was to divide tasks from the outset in the most effective manner possible and approach the issues at hand from varied angles, ranging from simple heuristics to a more complex model capturing short-term market dynamics.

To maximise efficiency and output, they deployed quantitative finance principles, machine learning, advanced C++ features, custom data visualisation tools, and more.

Girard has a longstanding passion for cryptocurrencies, trading, and cybersecurity. While rooted in his quantitative engineering background, his interests now centre around data science and finance. A

fter his degree and following his competition victory, he will most likely take up Optiver’s opportunity to work for them as a quantitative trader.

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