OIC Educational Program Evolves With the Industry

Feb 3, 2014

(This is part two of an article derived from an interview with Alan Grigoletto, vice president of education at the OIC. Part one focused on the OIC’s educational efforts in China.)

It was a good year for the options industry in 2013. In fact, it was the second best year in terms of volume, despite volatility that was about 50 percent lower in 2013 than it was during the industry’s 2011 record year.

In other words, 2013 appeared to have all the makings for a down year in options. But what ailed many other markets, low interest rates, is what contributed to stronger options volumes. (See story on Overwrite Strategies) Total options trading volume in 2013 was about 3 percent ahead of 2012.

Such is the backdrop for the OIC, which is looking to grow and change along with the marketplace, and along those lines it announced a new options education program for 2014. It is expanding its educational program for 2014 with some new initiatives and changes in focus, while keeping its tried and true course offerings intact.

Part of what’s new is new technologies. The OIC has come a long way from when they used to mail out CD-Roms, embracing iTunes from the beginning, as well as the Massive Open Online Courses (“MOOC”s), which they have emulated. OIC has been working on a mobile app, which is currently in Beta form.

“People love to do this [options education] while they’re on the train or plane…to be able to access information in their own time and place without being tethered to a computer,” Grigoletto said.

The app has been available since December and has been downloaded more than 100 times. The only advertising OIC has done for the app so far is word of mouth.  OIC also plans to offer an app that works for Android at some point.

 Mary Savoie, executive director of the OIC, gets credit for pushing the app as part of OIC’s education program, he added.

 The OIC is also doing a few things differently when it comes to the live education program, Grigoletto said. One, is reducing the overall time for their evening seminars from three hours to 90 minutes. They have also added quizzes during the seminars to ensure people are comprehending the material. Many instructors say they prefer teaching live because “you can’t read the eyes of someone on the other side of a computer screen and know they are comprehending,” he said.

 The first live seminar this year is on the Greeks on Feb. 4.

Before the financial crisis, it would not be unusual to have 250 people show up for the live seminars, Grigoletto said. Numbers have dropped since then but are still at around 125 or so.

The OIC’s webinars are also viewed by “hundreds” of people, he added. Joe Burgoyne [director of institutional and retail marketing for the OIC] does a radio broadcast called the “Wide World of Options” which attracts a broad audience of listeners. Those sessions are taped and archived so people can listen to them as many times as they choose, Grigoletto said.

The OIC continues to offer its MyPath Assessment tool, a staple of its educational program for many years. The tool assesses a user’s level of expertise, starting at beginner, so users can skip the material they are already familiar with.

The OIC has traditionally been focused particularly on retail investors, but in 2014 they will be targeting the institutional space.

“In my opinion, [institutional entities that don’t use options] are either getting misinformation about options or don’t view them as a true way to enhance a portfolio,” Grigoletto said. “We think options are a very good tool for pension funds to reduce risk and increase yield on a portfolio.”

The OIC will devote a lot of time talking with pension and endowment decision-makers – not hedge funds, however, who don’t have as much of a need for the OIC’s expertise, he added.

OIC makes a trip to Washington, D.C. every year to educate Congressional staffers on the Hill, in particular the staffers of the House Financial Services Committee.  

“We do that to refresh their knowledge on our industry, because often staffers will rotate out and take other positions,” Grigoletto said. “We value this as a good use of our time to make sure the Congressmen who employ these staffers have an up-to-date education on not only our industry but the mechanics of how options are being used by the general public as well as by the advisory segment.”

The D.C. trip also includes a presentation to the Securities Exchange Commission. This year they gave a presentation specifically on options market structure, which had never been done before at the SEC. They also put together a panel composed of retail, exchange, and advisory representatives, who each attested to the value of education in the growth of the options industry, Grigoletto said.

As for this year, the OIC is also introducing a new three-part seminar series in February in Costa Mesa, Calif., which will take place on one night a week for three consecutive weeks in one city. The idea is to give the students time to go home and study, practice what they’ve learned, and build on their options knowledge.

The OIC’s web site can be found at optionseducation.org.

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