Baruch clubs and students denied access to the trading floor

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

Baruch College’s students and clubs have been denied use of the Wasserman Trading Floor during the past year. Instead, the space has been rented out to outside organizations.

The floor is normally used by Baruch’s Investment Management Group, as well as by students from the Zicklin School of Business. But since last semester, IMG has been pushed out of the space, and an online trading academy has been paying to use it on a weekly basis.

The trading floor has two main rooms: one room with chairs that IMG used to use for pitches and a second room that houses the computers with the trading software on them.

The trading academy books both rooms from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., including on Thursdays during club hours, which is when IMG would primarily be using the floor.

The Subotnick Financial Services Center encompasses the trading floor’s two rooms, including the Sidney I. Lirtzman Financial Seminar Hall. “The primary use of the Center is to complement existing and special topics courses in Accounting, Computer Information Systems, Economics, Finance, Management, Marketing, Statistics, Financial Engineering and other disciplines at Baruch College,” the center’s page on Zicklin’s website states.

“Over 100 different courses have used the Center as an experiential learning ‘lab’ where students gain hands-on experience working with professional financial software and trading systems.”

Despite the center’s mission statement, the current reality seems to be the opposite.

This has left IMG with no place to go during club hours and limited access to the software that it needs to trade, such as Bloomberg, FactSet and S&P Capital IQ.

“Once we were kicked out, we were basically scrambling around the whole entire school to find rooms for our meetings,” IMG Co-CEO Sharada Tangirala said.

She continued, “We didn’t have a set meeting room because the Office of Student Life didn’t give us a set room for [last] semester. People couldn’t come to the club, or people who didn’t know about the club couldn’t come, because we’d be scrambling for an open room to just meet and conduct our meetings. It was crazy.”

Club members said that they felt like an integral part of their club was now being denied to them, and that IMG has seen the negative effects of the trading floor’s usage restrictions.

“Frankly, it has been a real pain,” Kelan Betancourt, chief operating officer of IMG stated. “We’d like to dedicate all of our energy to producing returns for the endowment and helping members achieve their career goals.”

“Fortunately, we have a room booked for the year, but there have been times where we have had to turn students away because our current room is not big enough,” Betancourt explained.

“When we had access to the trading floor during the 2016-2017 year, we never had to do this. Not being able to use the Bloomberg terminals also affects our ability to produce good stock pitches.”

The issues with the trading floor began last year, when an IMG general interest meeting became so crowded that it accidentally exceeded the floor’s occupant capacity. The floor’s team “kicked the club out” after this, according to Tangirala. Soon after, the trading academy began renting out the space, filling up large time slots in the floor’s schedule.

Afterward, the club was not  able to regain entrance to the trading floor, even after reaching out to the Financial Services Center’s management directly and asking the Office of Student Life for help when members did not receive a response on why their access had been restricted.

IMG hasn’t been allowed to use the floor even once this semester. For a club whose goal is to manage the Baruch endowment fund of about $350,000 and to pitch stocks to be added to their portfolio, zero trading terminal time is a problem.

When The Ticker reached out to OSL for a statement, Associate Director Karl Koppel declined to comment on behalf of the office.

When asked by The Ticker why IMG was not allowed to use the trading floor, the director of the center, Trevor Moores, said, “That is factually incorrect. The IMG’s access to the center was revoked twice because of violations of center policies, including exceeding the legal safety limits on the number of people occupying the space.”

Moores went on to say, “In the first instance, the IMG’s access privileges were revoked for one semester.”

“When the ban was lifted, I made a point of explaining the need to follow the rules and recommended having someone staff the door to ensure the limits were not exceeded again,” he continued. “The second violation resulted in no access for one academic year. Are the clubs you interviewed suggesting they should be allowed to violate the rules and still be allowed access to the center? Clubs, including finance, cybersecurity and others use the center without any problems.”

Moores sees no need to stop the renting of the trading floor — it generated $60,000 for the school.

The director has gotten a bad reputation with IMG for what the club feels has been a lack of understanding and cooperation on his part.

“They act like a separate entity,” Tangirala said regarding Moores and the center’s management. “They don’t affiliate with student life and we have donors; it’s a Baruch fund and he still doesn’t take us seriously.”

In the end, the students just want the trading floor back to the way it was before — open and accessible to campus organizations and classes. The problem isn’t necessarily that the floor is being rented out, but that this is being done at the students’ expense.

“We’re not obnoxious, we’re not trying to break the rules, we really are not,” said Tangirala. “All we want to do is just sit in a room and discuss stocks.”