It's a long way from Marc A. Breillout's office on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris to Chicago's rough-and-tumble trading pits. But thanks to 48-year-old Breillout, Fimat Group has become the No. 1 futures broker--not just in the Windy City, but worldwide.
Fimat was virtually unknown outside Europe until 1997, when Breillout moved to New York to beef up the brokerage's fledgling U.S. operation. To lure big institutional clients away from rivals, he developed services such as customized risk-management and reporting systems that few other brokers provided. By the end of 2001, Fimat ranked No. 1 on the two largest futures exchanges, the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Breillout's first contact with Fimat was as a client. As a manager at Paris-based Société Générale in the late 1980s, he used Fimat--a subsidiary established by the bank in 1986--to hedge bond issues on the newly opened French futures and options exchange. He was recruited as Fimat's capital markets manager in 1993, helping it become a dominant player on the London and Frankfurt derivatives exchanges. He became vice-chairman in 1997.
Breillout, after returning to Paris in 1999 as CEO, is now turning Fimat into a full-service brokerage. It already gets 29% of U.S. revenues from stock and bond trading. Profits last year soared 54%, to $34.5 million, on revenues of $222 million worldwide. True, Fimat got a boost from last year's economic turmoil, which prompted banks to hedge through the futures markets. "Our timing was just right," Breillout says. Fimat looks set to keep mining gold in the futures pits.