My Meeting With Interactive Brokers CEO Thomas Peterffy

The inside scoop from one Fool's interview with Interactive Brokers' founder and CEO.

Mar 16, 2014 at 4:38PM

At The Motley Fool, and particularly in Stock Advisor, we spend quite a bit of time evaluating management. That's why Jim Mueller and I traveled north to tony Greenwich, Conn., to interview Thomas Peterffy, CEO and founder of Interactive Brokers (NASDAQ:IBKR)

The full audio recording and transcript of the interview is available only to Stock Advisor members. However, I can share my impressions and a few key tidbits. In short, I was quite impressed by Peterffy. Here are four reasons why.

1. Actively engaged in the business
When we arrived, Peterffy wasn't ensconced in a corner office or huddling in a back room with other top managers. He was out on the open floor, talking to one of his programmers. During the interview, he quoted the average client commission charge from last month down to the penny. He's 69 years old and already worth billions, so it would be understandable if he wanted to disengage a bit. But I got the distinct impression that he is still heavily involved in the details of the business.

2. Sticking to the strategy
The success of Interactive Brokers has been driven by its technological prowess and ability to automate trading to drive down costs. In the interview, Peterffy explained that he still considers himself a programmer at heart. And while Interactive Brokers is part of the financial industry, he considers it a technology business. When I asked about potentially simplifying the Interactive Brokers trading platform to appeal to a wider market, he smiled and shook his head. No -- Interactive Brokers will remain focused on catering to sophisticated investors. As he said, "You have to focus on a few things and do them very well." In other words, he's sticking to the strategy that has worked.

3. Thinking long-term
When I asked Peterffy about the key operational metrics that he tracks, the first thing he mentioned was customer profitability. He wants to make his customers more profitable by driving down costs and offering excellent trade execution. And I don't think he's doing that for altruistic reasons. He understands that, over the long term, Interactive Brokers will benefit by helping its customers succeed. And it's natural for Peterffy to be thinking long-term. He's by far the largest investor in the overall company.

4. Being a straight-shooter
Before the interview, Peterffy's assistant showed us to his office, which is right off the open office floor, and he joined us a few minutes later. He was not accompanied by any flunkies from public relations or investor relations. After a few minutes of small talk, he asked us to sit down and begin the interview. He politely volunteered to answer any and all questions with no script. We just gave him a microphone, I asked questions, and he answered them all with no hesitation. Unfortunately, many CEOs have a tendency to answer investor questions with rambling bits of corporate doublespeak. So I appreciated Peterffy's directness and candor.

Foolish bottom line
I came away from the meeting impressed by Peterffy. Admittedly, these are just my impressions from a short meeting. Judging management is a notoriously difficult task. But this meeting provided me with another useful data point, which, along with my analysis of Peterffy's track record and incentives, gives me confidence in the leadership at Interactive Brokers.

Is Uncle Sam about to claim 40% of your hard-earned assets?
Thanks to a 2013 law called the American Taxpayer Relief Act, or ATRA, he can, and will, if you aren't properly prepared.

Fortunately, The Motley Fool recently uncovered an arsenal of little-known loopholes to protect yourself from ATRA and help keep the taxman at bay when he inevitably comes calling. We reveal them all in a brand-new special report. Simply click the following link for instant, 100% free access.

Protect my hard-earned wealth from Uncle Sam

Brendan Mathews has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Interactive Brokers. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers