Taking the challenge to Thinkorswim

February 25, 2017 11:00 AM

Since launching in 2014, TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim Challenge has encouraged college students to build market knowledge by giving them the ability to put classroom theory into real-life investing practice.

“This program is all about action and helping students to prepare for life after graduation,” said Nicole Sherrod, managing director of trading at TD Ameritrade, in a statement. “It’s fascinating to see what the students can do. Last year’s winning team turned a 163% profit.”

The 2016 competition, the third-annual, welcomed 726 teams, 2,500 students from 49 U.S. states to TD Ameritrade Inc. headquarters in Omaha, Neb. Participating teams had four weeks to invest $500,000 of virtual money in real-time using paperMoney, the virtual trading version of the thinkorswim desktop and mobile applications.

More trades were made in the technology sector than in any other sector, and there was a focus on options. Apple (AAPL) was the most frequently traded stock option and Twitter (TWTR) was the most frequently traded stock. 

The competition reflected students’ growing comfort with technology as 36% of trades were placed through a mobile device. This is up from 21% of trades from the 2015 competition. 

Team participation has grown 73% annually since the first year, and the complexity of the trading has also increased. 
“It never ceases to amaze me  —  the level of complexity that is taught within college finance courses today,” says Mary Ryan, 30, manager of TD Ameritrade U. “These students have such strong knowledge of some very advanced concepts. And, the number of college students that are already actively trading is pretty remarkable.”

“The rewarding and best part of my job is being able to help students connect the dots between what they are learning in class and applying it to the real world,” adds Ryan. “I get to work with professors to further integrate TD Ameritrade’s technology into their curriculum, and that’s challenging and fun. Being part of the process that leads to the ‘aha’ moment and seeing that light bulb go on is just so cool.”

Team “All for Tony, Tony for All” from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill won the 2016 thinkorswim Challenge with a 127% portfolio gain (a portfolio value of $1,133,492). The school was awarded $30,000 for its role in educating students on the importance of investing. Each team member received a TD Ameritrade account funded with $3,000 and an iPad Pro.
The second and third place teams received awards and their respective schools got gifts as well.

“It was an intense and exhilarating learning experience and those of us who are here next year absolutely plan to do it again,” said Grahme Taylor, 21, an All for Tony team member.

Trading up to the closing bell, UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduates Alex Bryan, a senior economics and Portuguese double major; sophomore Nyatefe Mortoo, a business administration major; sophomore Dhru Patel, a computer science and pre-business double major and senior Grahme Taylor, a health policy and chemistry double major, outperformed nearly 233 schools —17 of which were from UNC-Chapel Hill competing in this year’s Challenge.

“It’s pretty cool to see yourself and your friends on the news, and having the win on our resumes will be great as we move forward in our careers,” adds Taylor. 

Each year the thinkorswim Challenge is open to all students at post-secondary educational institutions in the United States.

“We work hard to make sure that the content is digestible for any investor at any age,” says Ryan. “Students who are involved in TD Ameritrade U and who take the Challenge soon realize it’s very easy to get started in inverting and trading.”

About the Author

Tamarah Webb is the associate editor for Modern Trader magazine and Futuresmag.com. She was born in Hawaii and has moved numerous times being privileged to live in places around the world through the military. Tamarah is a recent journalism alumna of Columbia College Chicago where she minored in cultural studies.