WorldQuant Founder, Chairman and CEO Igor Tulchinsky likes to say that talent is statistically distributed around the globe but opportunity is not. In charting his vision for the firm, Tulchinsky has taken advantage of this possibility for human capital arbitrage by opening research offices in countries that have strong quantitative talent, such as China, India, Israel, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. Four years ago, he came up with the idea for the Virtual Research Center, which would offer opportunities to people anywhere in the world who had been identified through the WorldQuant Challenge. (The competition allows individuals to learn about quantitative finance and attempt to build high-quality signals, which WorldQuant calls alphas.)
As an extension of Tulchinsky’s philosophy, VRC General Manager Nitish Maini conceived the International Quant Championship — a three-stage, team-based contest that gives participants the chance to represent their universities in WorldQuant’s largest alpha-building competition to date. The IQ Championship launched yesterday with more than 3,000 registrants representing some 500 universities spread across 56 countries; interested people can join the competition into early May (Stage 1 ends later that month). The leading university teams from the first stage will compete in Stage 2 to determine which team will represent its country or region in the Stage 3 finals, to be held in Singapore in mid-September.
The IQ Championship gives participants a way to learn about quantitative finance beyond textbooks and outside the classroom. Using WebSim, WorldQuant’s web-based market simulation and analysis platform, teams of students, alumni or professors from the same university will build alphas that seek to predict the price movements of various financial instruments. Each participant has access to a library of training videos upon registration and can also attend information sessions on campuses globally and online. “The International Quant Championship provides a great opportunity for students to learn and experience how quantitative tools and techniques can be used in the real financial world,” says Thaisiri Watewal, director of the master’s program in financial engineering at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
The IQ Championship gives participants a way to learn about quantitative finance beyond textbooks and outside the classroom.
Although the IQ Championship has clear utility from an educational perspective, it also offers tangible commercial benefits for competitors who are successful. Top performers may be awarded a special stipend from a potential pool of up to $100,000 and may be considered for five full-time quantitative research positions, a number of part-time research consultant roles and as many as 15 internships at WorldQuant.
For contestants in developing countries, the IQ Championship also offers social benefits. As the competition moves through its three stages, students are exposed to top talent outside their universities and countries, and they may meet students from different backgrounds for the first time. Angel Marchev Jr., a professor of business economics at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, notes that most of his students have never left Bulgaria. He says that competing on an international stage gives them perspective on their global peers and imparts a newfound sense of social awareness. “The international competition is a good way to show my students who their competitors really are,” Marchev explains. “They aren’t in their classes or even in Bulgaria. They’re around the world.”
Oleg Shibanov, a senior lecturer in finance at the New Economic School in Moscow, is optimistic that the IQ Championship will open doors for his students to work in asset management. “Many students would like to try themselves in the industry, and the International Quant Championship helps them with that,” he says. “I hope and believe some of them end up in the industry.”
At its most basic level, the International Quant Championship ignites a universal sense of school spirit — across universities, countries and continents — that drives students to want to bring home the top trophy. “There is a sportsmanship of waving the flag of the university,” Marchev says. “And competition is always fun.”
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