Palm Beach, FL

The richest person in Palm Beach, FL

Ash Jurberg

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Recently Forbes released their list of the wealthiest 400 people in the United States. I admit I love reading through the list to find any motivational stories that stand out. Many of the billionaires on this list inherit their wealth, so I like to look for the stories of people who had to work hard to make their wealth. One story that is inspiring is that of Palm Beach resident Thomas Peterffy.

I think it's one worth sharing with the readers of Palm Beach and across Florida - who knows, it may inspire one reader to achieve their goals also.

The Palm Beach billionaire

Thomas Petterffy comes in at number 36 of the United States rich list. With a fortune of $21.9 billion, he is not only the wealthiest person in Palm Beach but also all of Florida.

Peterffy was born in a hospital basement during an air raid in Budapest, Hungary, in 1944. His father emigrated to the United States in 1956, and Peterffy followed him in 1965.

At the time, Peterffy's father had no room in his New York City apartment for him to live, so he gave his son $100 and told him to make something of himself. Peterffy, who couldn't speak English at the time, was left to fend for himself.

He got a job working as an architectural draftsman for an engineering firm. The firm purchased a new computer, and Peterffy volunteered to program it. He became an expert at programming and developed a financial modeling program.

"I grew up in socialist Hungary that was under Russian occupation. When I was 21 years old I was able to come to the United States. I did not speak English. I had to get a job and the only job that I could do was computer programming. I was able to read the manuals and the vocabulary was only about 100 words, so it was a lot easier to learn than English." Thomas Peterffy

The trading genius

Peterffy saved up his earnings and with that bought a seat on the American Stock Exchange, which would allow him to trade equity options using the software he had developed under the name of Interactive Brokers.

He was a financial modeling genius, and each day he would think of ways to improve his model. Finally, his system began to revolutionize the way traders worked as he developed algorithms to determine the best prices for options and used those on the trading floor. He was the first person to use handheld computers on the trading floor, and his automated processes gave him an advantage.

Interactive Brokers has since grown to become the largest electronic trading platform in the United States. The company serves over 720,000 client brokerage accounts, with $170.1 billion in customer equity. Peterffy currently owns 75% of Interactive Brokers.

I think the way a CEO runs his company is a reflection of his background. Business is a collection of processes, and my job is to automate those processes so that they can be done with the greatest amount of efficiency"

Peterffy now lives in Palm Beach and has more than 500,000 acres of real estate across his home state of Florida.

Not a bad effort for a man who came to America at the age of 21, with no English and had only $100 to his name. To rise to become the wealthiest person in Palm Beach and the 36th wealthiest in the entire country.

Palm Beach readers, have any of you met or dealt with Thomas Peterffy? What are your thoughts on his story? As always, please leave your comments in the section below.

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