Tom Ascher – Open Outcry Traders History Project – Part Two

John Lothian

John Lothian

Executive Chairman and CEO

Quantitative Brokers’ Executive Chairman Tom Ascher Recalls His Days Trading on Floor

In Part Two of the JLN interview with Tom Ascher for the Open Outcry Traders History Project, Ascher talks about getting involved in exchange politics. He joined CBOE’s board and later became its vice chairman. At one point, his non-trading activities became his main focus.

He talks about what the other locals were like. It was a collegial group, with some becoming friends and others becoming frenemies.

Ascher talks about the way large orders were executed in the pit, with cooperation between locals to show the largest aggregate liquidity available.

He talks about being on the blunt end of front-running with RJR Nabisco before insider trading laws kicked in.

And he talks about the great deeds he saw on the floor, including traders helping each other when someone took big losses.

Ascher talks about life lessons and how he looks at business with a focus on the optionality he learned on the trading floor.

He mentions the big traders who helped him in his career, including the head trader at Goldman Sachs, Ed Kelly, who tapped Ascher on the shoulder and asked if he would like to get involved with an exchange committee.

He lists a bunch of different traders from those days at the CBOE who were significant players on the trading floor.

His trading on the floor drifted as he was drawn more to the business of the exchange. This exposure, including some failed attempts at exchange mergers, led him to his post-trading career. 

He was asked by Thomas Peterffy of Timber Hill to join his firm, which was building the operation that would become Interactive Brokers. He would be the Interactive Brokers representative for the deal with Montreal Exchange and Boston Options Exchange that would become BOX.

He later was hired by Nasdaq-Liffe and joined Bob Fitzsimmons to help build that single stock futures exchange.

Then he was hired by the ISE as chief strategy officer, working with David Krell and Gary Katz, as ISE drew closer to the CBOE.

While at ISE, he also became the president and CEO of Longitude, LLC, an ISE company that turned some dormant intellectual property into disruptive gaming and wagering software today used by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

He helped launch the ISE Stock Exchange, which was rolled into Direct Edge, which merged with BATS. Ironically, CBOE would buy BATS, bringing Ascher’s efforts full-circle to his early days.

Today he is executive chairman at Quantitative Brokers, which recently sold a majority stake to Deutsche Boerse. 

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