The Econometric Game

By Seth Robinson

This year, for the first time ever, graduate researchers at the Faculty of Business and Economics competed in the Econometric Game in Amsterdam, taking out an incredible win amongst a collection of 30 international universities, including the likes of Harvard, UCL, Oxford, and Cambridge

Now known as the World Championship of Econometrics, the Econometric Game began “on a cold Wednesday, in February 1999”, as a national competition that brought econometricians from across the Netherlands together to compete in a case competition based on financial markets. 20 years later, it has evolved into an international institution, with researchers and econometricians from 30 of the world’s leading universities taking part. This year, for the 20th edition of the Econometric Game, University of Melbourne graduate researchers Alex Ballantyne, Paul Nguyen, Quoc Anh Nguyen, and Tao Sun took the crown. We spoke with Alex and Paul to find out more.

“This year the case itself was quite different from previous years. It was about climate econometrics, specifically about modelling growth in atmospheric carbon emissions and forecasting forward to the year 2100. It’s an example of the way techniques used in economics can make their way into other areas, including the physical sciences, to analyse and model physical (rather than economic) phenomena,” says Paul.

The winning Team
L-R: Quoc Anh Nguyen, Paul Nguyen, Alex Ballantyne, Tao Sun

“The case suited us quite well, given that many on our team have a strong background in time series analysis, which is often considered to be a more specialised field. Compared to the other teams, I believe that our strengths were in our analysis, detail and care. We spent a lot of time thinking about the modelling approach, considering the strengths and weaknesses. As a team, we also had a very good intuitive understanding of time series modelling, which is quite important in being able to specify and evaluate models.”

With this year marking the University of Melbourne’s first participation in the Econometric Game , the team were a little uncertain exactly what to expect, however, according to team leader Alex, this may have proven an advantage.

Alex Ballentyne
Alex Ballantyne presenting.

“Our success was unexpected – Harvard and Oxford are among the participating Universities, so the competition was strong. It was the first year the University had sent a team, so we were not entirely sure what to expect. As it turns out, that may well have helped us relax and have fun in the competition rather than get paralysed with stress – some of the other teams actually commented on how surprised they were by our jovial approach! There was a strong element of luck in our success, as the case so suited our skill set. Personally, I drew heavily from my past experience in the Macroeconomic Modelling section at the Reserve Bank of Australia and the first year Graduate Research (GR) time-series course at University of Melbourne. Our team worked extremely well together and we were able to be flexible in our strategy to leverage the most out of each member. Overall, our solid training through the coursework at University of Melbourne, preparation before the competition, good time management and a positive but relaxed attitude meant that we were able to capitalise on the lucky opportunity presented to us. I felt privileged to be given the opportunity to compete in the Games with such a great team, and had more fun doing so than I would have expected! Coming away with a win is just the icing on the cake.”

Are you interested in pursuing a Graduate Reseach Degree at the Faculty of Business and Economics? Find out more now.

For Professor Kalvinder Shields, Graduate Research Director in Economics, the win, their well-rounded skill-sets and the attitude with which the team approached the Game gives a positive insight into the program.

“It reflects really well on both the world-class research training they receive in the PhD program as well as on the cooperative culture we have in the program – both of which we’ve been investing in over a number of years”.

Congratulations to all the team on their win, and all they learned from their incredible experience. You can review the work they presented in Amsterdam here – Case A and Case B.