Idaho AgBiz Blog
Feb. 26, 2020
Tony Drake visited the University of Idaho campus on Thursday, Feb. 20 in a day long engagement to share his experience in trading and risk management. He shared his 35 years of experience with students enrolled in the Agricultural Markets and Prices (AGEC 289), giving an insider look to the trading world, how it has changed, and the best ways to seek a career in it whilst still in college.
Drake began his career in trading at Drake and Company, a family-owned firm, where he traded livestock in the Indianapolis Stockyards in 1977. He went on to graduate from Indiana University Bloomington with a degree in finance in 1984. After college, he took a position at Cargill Investor Services and took over their U.S. agricultural futures execution and research. After 21 years there, he started Drake Trading Group, which became one of the largest-volume broker groups in the livestock quadrant. He sold the group to his employees in 2015, left the trading floor, and joined CME Group as senior director, agricultural products in 2016, working on updating and marketing all livestock futures contracts. He became vice president of agricultural trading for Phillip Capital Inc. in 2019, where he manages a large commodity trading portfolio.
Drake told students about what it was like to trade on in the pit in a time before electronic trading had become available. “My voice is two octaves lower than it used to be just from years of yelling, and some of my best buddies have lost their vocal cords,” he said. The trading pit was a battleground, a mass of shouting and shoving which sometime came to blows. With 2,000 people fighting to be heard, hand signals had to be utilized at times, which Drake demonstrated for the class. Today, electronic trading provides a much calmer experience than in years past. It allows for universal access, and saves traders’ time, energy, and vocals. Drake went on to tell students more about what to expect from the trading industry. He said the biggest growth he sees in the trading world is the fact that every company now must manage their own inputs, and controlling those inputs as well as risk has become part of their job.
Drake is a member of the Barker Advisory Board and cites it as one of the best ways a student can prepare themselves to enter a career in this realm. “Anyone graduating from college with a background in trading from Barker is a rare commodity,” he told AGEC 289 students. He went on to say that students walking out of the university with this kind of experience make themselves more marketable to employers because the best way to learn trade is to do it and learn from mistakes. Only about five universities nationwide allow students to truly trade in the market with genuine money and commodities. The real experience presents a rare opportunity which cannot be mimicked by simulations or textbook learning.
CME Group at the Chicago Board of Trade is offering summer internships in 2021 for summer to those interested in pursuing a career in trading or learning more about career opportunities in risk management. For more information or to learn where to apply, contact Norm Ruhoff, Director of CALS ACRMP, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb. 10, 2020
University of Idaho's Agricultural Commodity Risk Management Program (ACRMP) puts an emphasis on preparing students with information and experience they can take directly into the workforce after graduation, providing a one-of-a-kind real-world experience to help students find exciting career opportunities.
The ACRMP's primary focus is teaching students how to manage the risk involved in commodity marketing. By the time they complete the program, students are well-versed in analyzing the life cycle of a commodity, developing and implementing hedging strategies, understanding the mechanics of trading futures, options and spreads, analyzing supply and demand factors to develop strategies and manage risk in moving commodities through the food supply chain. The program also takes learning outside the classroom to local cooperatives, marketing centers, commodity merchandising firms, and export terminals, giving students direct contact and opportunities for networking.
The learning experience is enhanced by the opportunity for students to earn an undergraduate academic certificate, encompassing a 12-credit curriculum covering coursework, offered through a collaborative effort between the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the College of Business known as the Barker Program. Students getting this certification have access to the Barker Trading Room. a state-of-the-art replica of an open trading floor environment. In addition, students engage in trading real money and exchange-traded futures, allowing students to put what they have learned into practice under the guidance of instructors. Trading is complemented by the use of Bloomberg data terminals, industry standard futures trading platforms and direct involvement with industry professionals. This unique experimental learning is directly applicable to several careers in agribusiness, agrifinance and farm or ranch has attracted students from all colleges into the program.
One such student is Tyler Hand, a sophomore who recently switched his major from agricultural education to agricultural economics and just enrolled in ACRMP. "I was drawn to the program by the hands-on approach that Norm Ruhoff (ACRMP director) uses for the program to get you exposed to the real world of futures form a hedger's perspective. From day one, he has encourage us to dive in, get your hands dirty and evaluate that to learn. I have been thoroughly enjoying the curriculum and Professor Ruhoff brings a wealth of experience to the courses which makes it extremely interesting."
Recent graduates of the program have gone on to careers in agricultural finance, grain merchandising and brokerage for national and international firms along with returning to the farm or ranch with a great understanding of locking in profitable margins with futures. Visit http://bit.ly31sOdzB for more information on required classes or contact the Agricultural Commodity Risk Management Program Director Norm Ruhoff at email@example.com.
Dec. 20, 2019
As finals week draws to a close, seniors at the University of Idaho are looking forward to their final semester in college. The search for jobs is underway but some seniors, like Chad Robertson, have already found the career they have been preparing for since their freshmen year.
Chad Robertson grew up in Moscow, Idaho. Agriculture wasn’t originally something Robertson saw himself pursuing when he first enrolled at the University of Idaho. In a last-minute decision to follow his interest in the stock market rather than becoming a doctor, he switched his major from biology to finance and economics.
In the fall semester of his junior year, Robertson got involved with the Barker and Davis investment and capital management programs. Through those programs, he learned a number of invaluable lessons, which are the main reason behind most of his successes entering his final year of college.
“Slowly, I started to become more comfortable with commodities and began to learn how to apply my background in finance and economics to help me analyze the economics of the commodities market,” said Robertson.
After receiving several offers for positions at various companies, Chad Robertson has accepted a position at Columbia Grain as a grain merchandiser. Robertson said all the offers he received were attractive options, but ultimately his final decision came down to location. Columbia grain is one of the largest exporters of grain in the U.S. and is the largest player in the Pacific Northwest.
As a grain merchandiser, Robertson will be putting his skills in analyzing commodity markets and managing risk to good use. He will be responsible for helping farmers sell their grain and learning the logistics involved in the shipment of grains from the U.S to different regions across the globe.
“The way I try to explain it, trying to be a grain merchandiser is like trying to solve a 3-D puzzle with pieces that are constantly changing, because no one year in the commodities market is exactly the same,” said Robertson.
Robertson is quick to express his gratitude for the opportunities he found at the University of Idaho and with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
“I would like to thank all of the faculty that have taught and helped me during my time at the University of Idaho, as I wouldn’t be where I am without their help. Young Park, Darek Nalle, Terry Grieband Norm Ruhoff have all been instrumental in mentoring me over the past couple of years.
Chad was especially grateful Ruhoff. “I would have been a bit lost at times without the guidance and advice I received from Norm. I am very excited to begin working for Columbia Grain, and just as excited to enter the workforce as a proud Vandal alumnus and help the programs that gave me so much invaluable experience continue to expand and grow.”
Nov. 20, 2019
Doug Robinson, president of Idaho Northwest Farm Credit Services, visited the University of Idaho campus for an all-day engagement to meet with students and discuss what Northwest Farm Credit Services does and the opportunities that lie therein.
Robinson graduated from BYU Idaho in 2003 with a degree in Ag business and aspirations to return to the family farm. However, after losing a coin flip for the farm to his twin brother, he set out to strike his own path. That path led him to Farm Credit Services. Robinson was originally drawn to the pay and opportunity to put the degree he had earned to good use. He planned to stay for four years "for practice," during which time he could earn his MBA from Idaho State University and eventually move on to work for a commercial bank. However, he soon discovered how much he enjoyed working for Farm Credit Services and chose to stay. He has worked for the company ever since.
Robinson went into an in-depth discussion on many of aspects of his work with the Farm and Agribusiness Management class (AGEC 278), including the London Inter-Bank Offer Rate (LIBOR), repurchasing agreements, REPO, quantitative easing, the national deficit and explaining how the income deficit came to be. This gave students a better understanding of the day-to-day workings of Northwest Farm Credit Services and what each position at the company is responsible for, the most common position the company hires for are credit officer trainees. In this job, new employees do basic financial analysis of the finances of farms and ranches and pull together packages, make visits to inspect collateral and meet the customers. From there, there are essentially two career tracks an employee could potentially follow. The first is for those who are interested in the services aspect of the company, such as an appraiser. Farm Credit Services is the only company to pay for employees to get certified as an appraiser through a three-year program. The second track is for those interested in the numbers it takes to run the operation, such as positions in the financial analysis and funding departments, which help structure the overall balance sheet of the Farm Credit Services organization.
For those interested in seeking a career with Northwest Farm Credit Services, the best way to get a foot in the door is to apply for one of many internships offered by the company. "Internships allow us to try out potential employees as well as allowing students to try us out," said Robinson in the closing remarks of his presentation. If you are interested in learning more, you can contact Norm Ruhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Northwest Farm Credit Services website at northwestfcs.com/en/Careers.