Ready Trader Go: An interview with 2021 finalist Guyon van Rooij
Ready Trader Go, Optiver’s global coding competition, presents an excellent way for students to test their coding strength and dive headfirst into the world of algorithmic trading. On top of fine-tuning trading algorithms for Optiver’s simulated market exchange, RTG also provides a unique opportunity for students to join a competition that requires no previous knowledge of coding or trading in general – and provides a chance to win a monetary prize.
We sat down with 2021 RTG finalist Guyon van Rooij to hear his thoughts on the competition, what his favorite parts of the process were and the advice he’d give to future participants and those considering signing up.
Hometown: Breskens, Netherlands
Field(s) of study: Economics and Econometrics (pursuing a master’s degree in Quantitative Finance and Actuarial Science
Hobbies: Playing tennis, poker and StarCraft II as well as watching Formula 1 and American football
Give us a few details on your background and some of your hobbies.
I’m from a very small village in the Netherlands called Breskens – to give you some context, there was only a single embankment separating my house from the ocean. My village was so remote that in order to get to my university, I actually had to cycle an hour before taking a boat and a train to my final destination.
After living in Breskens for 18 years of my life, I decided to continue my journey in Tilburg, where I studied both Economics and Econometrics and am currently pursuing a master’s degree in Quantitative Finance and Actuarial Science. Eventually, Tilburg had to give way for Amsterdam two days a week as I secured a job as a part-time Trading Analyst (academic part-time role).
Tell us a little about your background – did have prior cording or trading experience before Ready Trader Go?
Prior to competing in Ready Trader Go, I only had a tiny amount of coding experience in R and did not have any coding experience in Python and/or C++. For this reason, I’d encourage people who are on the fence about participating simply based on their coding experience to join RTG. There’s always the chance to partner up or join a team with somebody who does have that experience; you might complement one another perfectly.
I have to admit that I spent a lot of late nights figuring out exactly what every piece of code in the application was doing. I even pulled an all-nighter before the first round as it took me over eight hours to figure out how to upload my first algorithm to the server. All that said, the stress was worth it!
Tell me a bit about your experience with RTG (and how it’s tied into Optiver).
After passing a series of tough rounds in the recruiting process, I joined the Index Options Team. Unfortunately, I could not attend the regular training sessions as a Trading Analyst due to only working two days a week as a part-time academic hire. Instead, I was mentored by an experience Data Analyst who helped me get up to speed quickly with Python, PostgreSQL and the Optiver infrastructure.
Even though I only recently joined the firm, I was positively surprised by the fact that I was already being involved in the decision-making progress and was encouraged to put forward ideas. Moreover, rather than being told what to do, I was granted the freedom to come up with the optimal solution for the problem myself. This responsibility also grew very quickly as six months later I was tasked with replacing the most heavily used dashboard on the trading floor while being granted a large amount of freedom. For me, this really showed how quickly you are given both ownership and responsibility at Optiver – and was actually one of the key reasons I extended my contract a few weeks ago.
What was your favorite part about the competition?
There were two things that I really enjoyed about the Ready Trader Go competition. The first one was really going into the depths of the algorithm that you are writing – finding the weaknesses of your algorithm, how your algorithm be exploited (and how to prevent it from being exploited), and how you manage your position. For example, there might be 10 ways to write a piece of code, but you have to consider how to write the fastest code.
The second one was figuring out what the algorithms of the opponents that are beating you are doing. Why is their algorithm faster than mine? On what signal is their algorithm basing their quotes? Consequently, I really enjoyed replicating other algorithms and finding their weakness and/or improving their algorithms even further and using it as my own.
What (if any) skillset would you say helped you the most in this competition?
The skillset that helped me the most in this competition was probably related to game theory. I spent a lot of time reasoning on what the optimal response of my algorithm should be in specific situation (for example, thinking about what should my algorithm do if the future moves or what should my algorithm do if there is an order book imbalance in the future and/or option).
That said, you don’t need to have prior experience with game theory in order to participate or be successful in this competition.
Do you have advice to share with others who are just joining RTG for the first time?
Start experimenting with your algorithm far in advance, but don’t forget to figure out how to correctly upload your algorithm to the server as a lot of people were unable to do this before the first round (in the previous RTG edition). This resulted in losing key feedback to initial algorithms.
Are there any lessons learned?
I would mention that during the last round of RTG, the winners did not only think about the algorithm itself, but how their orders would receive queue priority on the server side. This is a small tip to keep in mind during the competition that may end up being beneficial.
Are you ready to put your coding skills to the test for the chance to win €30,000?