Remembrances of Hal Hansen

John Lothian

John Lothian

Executive Chairman and CEO

Hal Hansen, the longtime Cargill Investors Services president and a former chairman of the NFA board of directors, has passed away at the age of 85. 

Hansen was a Cargill executive for 40 years before retiring to Naples, Fla. I first met him in 1984 when he was a giant in the industry and I was a cub reporter with Commodity News Service on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. He would not give me the time of day then, and I don’t blame him, but he later became a loyal reader of JLN after his retirement. The late Peter Wind, a Cargill underling of Hansen’s, made sure Hansen was reading the newsletter as a way to stay connected to the industry. 

I remember meeting Hansen at the Bürgenstock conference and him telling me how much he enjoyed the newsletter. 

I have asked some of Hansen’s former industry colleagues to share some remembrances: 

Richard Sandor

Remembering Hal Hansen

I was introduced to Hal in the early 1970’s after joining the Chicago Board of Trade as chief economist. It was my responsibility to review all of the CBT contracts and Hal was an expert in poultry. He explained the entire cycle, from the egg to the supermarket, with great clarity. He became a go to resource for me from then on. Hal embodied all those characteristic and values of that were typical of Cargill employees. He represented the best in American agribusiness. Whenever I asked him for a favor he was always there with a substantive answer. His political skills and advice matched his business knowledge. We got along despite him being a Jayhawk while I was a Gopher 😊. Hal was also creative and always open to new ideas. Even though climate change, and the role of agriculture in helping to address it, was initially not popular among the agribusiness community, he introduced to us to the top leadership at Cargill. An introduction from Hal made a huge difference. Ultimately, they agreed to join the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).

Finally, we had a chance to spend a little time together at conference in Burgenstock, Switzerland when he was retiring. I complimented Hal about his leadership and creativity and asked what he was most proud of in his storied career. He told me he worked in his father’s brokerage firm as a teenager. He showed his father a new way to mark the prices in the chalkboard. Hal beamed with a great sense of both pride and incredulity when his dad said he was a genius. A family man, centered in humility, competence, values and leadership. That was the measure of the man.

Kyle Unterseher

WHAT A GUY….

I’m not sure I’ve met a better man than Hal Hansen. Certainly not in business. Ethics, integrity, and the sort of calmness in a storm that just reached out and grabbed your respect. The type of leader you love to go to battle alongside. Even with Hal’s lofty position in the futures industry and as President of Cargill Investor Services, Hal never demanded anything…. he simply deserved EVERYTHING.

From one middle-America farm boy to another Hal, I hope you leave us with just a small clue of how much you meant to a whole lot of us. RIP

Walt Lukken

Remembering Hal Hansen

I was incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Hal Hansen, a longtime member of our industry and a member of the FIA Hall of Fame. He was a mentor to many, including former CIS alum Bernard Dan and Chris Malo. I loved his sense of humor and his willingness to take time to help others. I first met Hal in 2003 as a newly appointed CFTC Commissioner at the Burgenstock Conference outside of Lucerne Switzerland. I happened to be paired with Hal in a golf scramble at the Burgenstock resort, which is best described as a golf course/cow pasture. Hal and I played our asses off and ended up winning the whole tournament. What was even sweeter to Hal was he beat John Damgard and the ringer team he had assembled. As a couple of Scandinavians, we bonded that day and I would occasionally reach out for his advice. I last saw him at John Damgard’s retirement party in Boca and his signature twinkle and smile was still beaming. I hope Hal leaves us knowing how many people he has positively impacted over the years, including myself. Valhalla my friend!

Tony McCormick

Remembering Hal Hansen

Sorry to see Hal Hansen passing. He was a true gentleman and served CIS with distinction. I met Hal through our good friend PW and always had a great deal of respect for him. He was an excellent Chair of the FIA. Hal was a navy man and new how to command. He and I once toured a ship docked in Coronado during a conference break back in the early 90’s. Hal had a US Navy tattoo which was a sign of where his heart was. RIP Hal and anchors away!

Tony Drake

Remembering Hal Hansen

When you hear people speak of Hal Hansen you will most always hear four common words….honesty, integrity, generous and kind. Hal not only was a mentor to me during my years at CIS, as he was to so many others, but he left a mark on the industry that will never be forgotten. Those growth years of the 80’s and 90’s saw Hal keep a steady hand on the growth at CIS as well as help guide the futures industry from it’s ag roots into financial futures. I remember Hal as being a champion of new futures products and new ways of doing business at the exchanges. But my foundest memory of Hal is just how he made everyone at CIS feel like we were one large family. He treated everyone the same and always had an uplifting word for all. Rest in peace, my friend.

Dan Roth

Remembering Hal Hansen

Hal Hansen was a fixture on NFA’s Board for over ten years.  In that time he served on the Executive Committee, as chairman of the Membership Committee and, ultimately, as Chairman of the Board.  I was lucky enough to work closely with Hal in each of those positions and it was always a delight.  Whatever the issue, there were two things about Hal that never changed.  One was his demeanor.  He was always calm and reflective and respectful of those with whom he dealt.  Amid an often clamorous debate, Hal never lost sight of NFA’s basic mission and always worked to advance it. The other thing that never changed was the twinkle in his eye.  He was never more than a second away from a big smile or laugh.  He was very slow to anger and very, very quick to smile.  Many of the smiles came during business hours but many more came after the meetings when Board members and staff retired to a nearby lounge to swap stories and jokes.  My bet is that wherever Hal is, the twinkle is still there.

Chris Malo

Remembering Hal Hansen

I had the opportunity to work for/with Hal for over 20 years and I cherished that our relationship had evolved into a strong friendship. He, along with many of his generation, shaped the futures industry to give it a foundation for which so many are benefitting today. As Chair of the NFA and FIA, and an active member of the CBOT Board of Directors, he had a significant influence over our industry in the 1980’s and 90’s. His legacy remains in our industry today as so many have been mentored by Hal or were indirectly mentored by his leadership in Cargill Investor Services (CIS) to become a leading global FCM.

During the Barings crisis in 1995, under Hal’s leadership as Chair of the FIA, he worked through Walter Mondale who was then the U.S. ambassador to Japan and with the CFTC to recognize the significance of the situation and to allow receivables from Barings Bank to be counted at current asset as their organization worked through the crisis. Eventually, the FCM’s were able to recapture their deposits from Barings Bank, avoiding a global crisis in our industry.

What our industry did not see was the influence and leadership Hal provided to the greater Cargill organization. Hal’s international experiences with Cargill prior to CIS and the Cargill values he demonstrated, positioned CIS to be a global leader in the industry. While scandals impeded some firms in our industry, it was Hal who insisted we operate as the “White Hat’s” in our industry.  Under Hal’s tenure, CIS became a clearing member of all the US futures exchanges and registered as a broker-dealer to become members of CBOE and PHLX. He was quick to position CIS to be an initial member of the LIFFE in London, open an office in Japan, become a clearing member of SGX in Singapore, and establish clearing membership at MATIF in Paris. During this time, CIS also became active in managed futures and OTC foreign exchange.

We will miss his friendship, leadership. and unwavering integrity. Thank you, Hal!

Ray Carmichael

Remembering Hal Hansen

One of our finest leaders in the industry, Hal Hansen, passed on June 7. He was 86. Hal was President of Cargill Investor Services (CIS) from its founding in 1978 until he retired in 1998. He was with Cargill for his entire business career – 40 years (what a legacy). He was greatly loved by many including his wife of 62 years, Lou Ann, his three children and many grand and great-grandchildren.

I was honored to work closely with Hal for 28 years as he helped lead the industry during its greatest growth and innovative years – the 1980s and 90s. While leading one of the largest futures brokerages he became a Chicago Board of Trade Board Member during its most important periods. He was Chair of the Public Relations Committee for many of them and helped bring the CBOT into a strong international media relations position. He was one of the most impactful leaders to help bring deeper transparency and broader communications to the marketplace. Without him I don’t know if the CBOT would have ever been such a strong leader internationally as the industry grew in Europe and Asia. His expertise at Cargill helped lead our industry’s expansion from its domestic agricultural roots to the emerging international derivatives markets. He was Chair of FIA and active in the NFA from its beginning.

But with all that said, the most significant legacy he left was his kindness, graciousness and integrity. No one ever doubted Hal’s dedication, strength and honesty. When he spoke he was calm, direct and influential. People listened to him and followed. Most importantly he was just a nice guy. People liked him, respected him and missed him when he retired. How many of us wish the same could be said about us?

After I left the CBOT in 1990 and opened my firm I was blessed to have been hired by Hal to help CIS strengthen its marketing and positioning in the industry. It was always a pleasure have such a wonderful spokesperson to promote and protect both the industry and the company he loved.

Few people left CIS while Hal led the company. They stayed, grew and enjoyed their time with him as their leader. He mentored his staff in such a way that many of them followed his example to become great leaders in this industry.

Cargill, our industry, his fellow employees and most importantly his family and friends will miss him and all he stood for. Great leaders are great because they care, listen and serve. Those are just a few of the qualities that made Hal so great.

Bernie Dan

Hal T. Hansen

Earlier this week, I woke up to some terrible news.  One of my mentors who shaped many of my views on life, work and many other things, has passed away.  I’ve never met someone as kind, generous and gracious as Hal Hansen.
I first met Hal in 1985 and from our first meeting he left a lasting impression on me as well as others at Cargill Investor Services (CIS) – integrity, ethics and customer service.  These three principles defined Hal and were instrumental in building CIS into one of the most respected FCM’s in the industry.  Throughout my time at CIS he was a huge supporter and helped me develop as a professional and a person which ultimately led me to being named his replacement as President of CIS when he retired in 1998. Fortunately for me I was able to share my gratitude when I last saw him in Naples, Florida.
Hal will be gone from our sight, but never from our hearts.
May he Rest in Peace.
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