Three Suffolk students traded their way to the top in the thinkorswim Challenge, a nationwide virtual trading competition sponsored by TD Ameritrade Services Company, Inc.

Working as a team, senior accounting major Francesco Servidio, Christian Gnonlonfoun (MSA), and Mariana Huang (MST)—placed third out of nearly 900 students from 96 colleges and universities.

The competition, which ran from October 12 through November 8, was a chance for students to test their trading skills in a simulated, real-world market. Each team started with $500,000 in virtual money and made investments using the paperMoney® program on the thinkorswim platform. Prizes were given to the top-three teams with the highest percentage gain in aggregate value. Servidio’s team finished the competition with an overall 114 percent average rate of return.

The three teammates currently work together in the Corporate Tax Department at State Street Corporation. “We’re all passionate about the stock market, but we’re fairly new to trading. Since we wanted to learn about market trends and different trading instruments, we thought this would be a great opportunity to practice trading without using our own money,” said Servidio.

When it came time to trade, the team split up into different roles. Servidio and Huang spent most of their time researching different stocks, paying attention to which companies were releasing their earnings, and identifying companies that had room for growth. Gnonlonfoun also helped with research, but his main focus was trading options—which offered higher gains but also higher risk.

“Going into the last week, we were in second place. We had a couple great days where we made $173,000 and $150,000 in one day,” Servidio said. But on the last day of the competition, another team came out of nowhere, making about $600,000 in one day.

In the end, it was exactly the type of learning experience Servidio was hoping for. “It helped us understand when to sell and hold securities. There were times when we bought an option, and after a few seconds, we lost thousands of dollars. We learned that we needed to have patience and confidence that the price of the security would go back up,” he said.

And that patience and confidence paid off.

Many other Suffolk students also did well. In total, 33 Suffolk student teams competed, with two teams in the top 10, five teams in the top 25, and 20 teams in the top 100.