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From Immigrant To Entrepreneur: How Thomas Peterffy Exemplifies The American Dream

From Immigrant To Entrepreneur: How Thomas Peterffy Exemplifies The American Dream

Thomas Peterffy is the 63rd richest person in the entire world. He's most well known for being the founder and CEO of Interactive Brokers (IEX: IBKR), and his story could serve as the dictionary example of the "American Dream."

Immigrant To Entrepreneur

Peterffy was born in 1944 in the bomb shelter of a Hungarian hospital during a Russian air raid. Eventually, after beginning studies in engineering, he gathered the courage and resources to immigrate to the United States in the mid-1960s. When he arrived, he knew no English and had zero resources.

Through perseverance, Peterffy was able to earn a job as a draftsman in a highway design firm before learning how to program computers. By the late 1970s, he had the technological and entrepreneurial acumen necessary to create Interactive Brokers, an online brokerage that allowed users to feasibly trade at affordable rates.

Specifically, automation makes Interactive Brokers the low cost provider in the brokerage space. The company also differentiates itself by passing most of the savings onto its customers.

Since then, Interactive Brokers has become a behemoth in the financial space. It sees 8,000 new accounts opened per month and allows users to trade on over 125 markets across over 30 countries.

See Also: Thomas Peterffy: Interactive Brokers Is Preparing For 'Big Launch' On Moscow Exchange

Interactive Brokers' Keys To Success

In a conversation with Benzinga, Peterffy explained that the true driver behind these astounding figures isn't heavy advertising or powerful marketing, but rather trust in the success of the product.

"Most users get on by word of mouth," he said.

How does an immigrant with no knowledge of American culture or language go on to create a technological giant five years before the iMac was even invented? The answer, according to Peterffy, is a focus on two key values: knowledge and reputation.

"(After I was born), the Russians took over the government in Hungary. They took away everybody’s property, and as a result it led to a really tough life," Peterffy explained. "My parents told me that there are always two things you can always keep and add to, and that is your knowledge — what you know — and your reputation."

It may go without saying how someone can grow their knowledge. But how does one go about growing their reputation?

"(Growing your) reputation is easier because all you have to do is, whenever you’re in doubt as to what is the right thing to do, you always favor the other person and their interpretation."

Peterffy has applied this value to the way he operates Interactive Brokers.

"That’s what I’m trying to do with Interactive Brokers," he said. "I always give more to the customer than to the firm."

New Developments For Peterffy's Company

2019 has been far from a slow year for Interactive Brokers. In March, the firm launched trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange for its users, a move propelled by the company's strong presence in the region.

"In Israel, we have a very large customer base because we have one IBKR customer for every 700 Israeli citizens, which is pretty high given that they have nine million people," he said.

In the coming months, Interactive Brokers plans on expanding its global reach, starting with the introduction of the Moscow Exchange on its platform.


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