Thomas Peterffy

Thomas Peterffy is an innovative powerhouse in the world of electronic trading and finance. He’s the founder of Interactive Brokers Group, Inc., an online discount brokerage firm that has revolutionized the way people invest, and is recognized for his pivotal role in digitizing Wall Street.

Early life

Born on September 30, 1944, in Budapest, Hungary, Thomas Peterffy’s early life was set against the backdrop of post-World War II Europe. As a child living under Soviet-controlled Hungary, he experienced the terrors and hardships of a communist regime. His mother was a librarian and his father a civil engineer, but it was in the world of numbers and finance that Peterffy found his calling.

In 1965, when he was 21 years old, Peterffy left Hungary as a refugee and emigrated to the United States, carrying little more than a suitcase and an education in civil engineering. Despite his limited grasp of the English language, Peterffy took on various jobs, from draftsman to architectural engineer, while he adapted to his new environment and started building a foundation for his future.

With limited accommodation options from his father, who was living with his second wife, Thomas was given $100 and encouraged to “forge his own path”. And so he did, but it wasn’t always easy.


Upon his arrival in New York City, Thomas, who didn’t speak English at the time, started his career in the United States as an architectural draftsman contributing to highway projects for an engineering firm. It was here that he volunteered to program their newly procured computer. Thomas often reflected on his background in programming, stating, “A CEO’s approach to running a company often mirrors their background. Business is a combination of processes, and it’s my responsibility to automate these processes for utmost efficiency”.

Peterffy’s career in finance began in the late 1970s when he purchased a seat on the American Stock Exchange and started trading equity options. Initially, he was a floor trader, but he quickly recognized the potential of computers to improve trading. This was a time when there were no personal computers, and Wall Street was still reliant on physical paper transactions.

Switching from financial modeling software design, Peterffy secured a position on the American Stock Exchange, focusing on trading equity options. Throughout his finance career, he has been a strong advocate for replacing manual systems with more efficient automated processes.

His visionary approach led to the development of a handheld computer for his traders to use on the trading floor, essentially being a precursor to modern-day tablets. Peterffy’s firm, Timber Hill, became a pioneer in electronic trading and by the mid-1980s, was the largest market maker in the global equity options market.

In 1993, he founded Interactive Brokers Group, an online discount brokerage that provides direct access to trade execution and clearing services to institutions and professional traders. The company’s influence on the financial sector was profound, marking a clear departure from traditional brokerage services and signaling the start of a new era in trading technology.

During the trading day, he would mentally write code, which he later implemented into computerized trading models after hours. His introduction of handheld computers on the trading floor in the early 1980s marked a significant shift in traditional practices. His AMEX-related activities eventually gave rise to Interactive Brokers. He relinquished his position as CEO in 2019.

In 2021, Interactive Brokers transferred its European headquarters from London and divided its operations between two new continental centers. Following this move, their Western European clientele were managed by an Irish subsidiary, and their Central European operations were headquartered in Budapest. Peterffy selected Budapest out of his belief in the unique linguistic and logical prowess of the Hungarian people, expecting it to result in high profitability.

Additionally, he sought to pay his dues to his homeland, Hungary. Consequently, the subsidiary Interactive Brokers Central Europe Zrt. was founded in Hungary, and upon its inception, became a member of the Budapest Stock Exchange (BSE).

Peterffy has also been involved in political activism. In the past, he has used his resources to express his views on economic issues, voicing concerns about the consequences of socialism and advocating for free market capitalism. His experiences growing up in a communist country have shaped his perspectives on these issues.

In his personal life, Peterffy enjoys the outdoors and is an avid equestrian. He owns multiple properties across the United States, including a ranch in Florida and land in the Adirondacks, which he uses for conservation purposes.

Net Worth

As of mid-2023, Thomas Peterffy’s net worth is estimated at approximately $25 billion, according to Forbes. His wealth is primarily derived from his ownership stake in Interactive Brokers Group, which has been a publicly traded company since 2007.


Over the course of his career, Peterffy has received several accolades and awards for his groundbreaking work in financial technology. Some of those include:

Recognized as an innovator of electronic trading, often credited for ushering Wall Street into the digital era.
Inducted into the FIA Futures Hall of Fame in 2018, a distinction awarded to individuals who have made substantial contributions to the global futures and options industry.
Frequently featured in a variety of financial and business publications for his contributions to the industry.
Included in Forbes' list of the 400 wealthiest people in America.

Social Profile

Despite his wealth and success, Thomas Peterffy maintains a relatively low profile. He does not actively engage in social media, preferring to keep his private life separate from his professional endeavors.