Two years ago, Dave Nadeau ’02 spent six months clerking in the trading pits of the NYBOT and COMEX. It wasn’t quite the unbridled carnage of Trading Places, but it came close. He learned that the pits have their own subculture, where physical jockeying and intimidation are not only acceptable behavior but rewarded. It was a good fit for an adrenaline junkie. “I realized then that floor experience is immensely valuable,” he says.
Nadeau, now an independent trader who focuses on the orange juice market, decided he wanted to help current students get that same early exposure to trading that launched his career in commodities. Working with the School, Nadeau designed a field study that allows students to earn academic credit as they hone their trading skills. “It’s easy to read about how things trade and how the market changes dynamically over time, but to experience it live is very different,” he says. “This is 100 percent practical knowledge.”
Since then, Nadeau has helped three students get firsthand experience on the floor. Monroe Burch ’06 hadn’t settled on a career path when he signed up for Nadeau’s field study last fall. “I realized that this is a very entrepreneurial way to break into finance,” says Burch, who is now a trading assistant with Prime International on the NYMEX.
Nadeau explains his trades moments after they occur, and he drills each student on options pricing and hedging based on live market prices. He also assigns each student a paper portfolio that they maintain and track daily. “Every trade they try must be doable,” says Nadeau. “I may even do the trade and see how it influences the market.”
“It’s very involved and intense,” says Bobby Grant ’06, who completed the field study in May. “Options permeate every aspect of the finance world — this is about price discovery, market making and taking serious risks.” Students supplement their hours on the trading floor with required reading and a research paper. They also have the chance to observe the other markets at the futures and options exchange. When Rob Bush ’06 took the field study last spring, he made contacts that later led to several job interviews. Bush is now an assistant trader with Susquehanna, one of the largest exchange market makers in the United States.
The School’s 36,000-strong alumni network is an invaluable resource for students and fellow alumni who are exploring career options. Leading a field study, organizing an internship and serving as a mentor are just some of the ways that alumni can get involved and support the next generation of graduates. On November 7, the School will host its annual Career Night in New York. Alumni are invited to share their expertise with students in industry-specific panels and at a networking reception. To register, contact the Alumni Relations Office at (212) 854-8815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The academic rigor of Nadeau’s field study led the School to name him an adjunct professor. Nadeau’s in-laws wonder why he devotes so much time and energy to his students. “They push me to be more alert because they question everything that I do,” he says. He’s kept in touch with all of his former students and often meets them for a drink after work. “Dave has introduced me to other Columbia alumni, and it’s great to know there’s a community out there,” says Grant. “To know that people genuinely care about what you’re doing is really important.”
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