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November 1, 2004

Around the World in 365 Days

By Gregory Bresiger

After a quarter century as a derivatives and currency trading executive, Peter Feuerstein is today an international man. He grew up in Sweden but is at home in many different cultures. A Swedish and British citizen who married an American woman - who also has British citizenship Feuerstein has United States resident status. He now lives with his family in Mamaroneck, New York. He is a linguist who speaks all Scandinavian languages as well as French, German and English. He even speaks a bit of Hungarian. A facility with languages has been helpful for Feuerstein, who counts as his hobbies international politics and traveling. He has had years of experience trading derivatives, currencies and even bonds. Today, he does consulting and some trading in stock index futures and foreign exchange for himself.

Feuerstein graduated with an MBA from the University of Lund in Sweden in 1978. He came to the U.S. as a trainee at a commodities house in Chicago for two years. Feuerstein began with Conticurrency in Chicago and was later offered a full-time job. He transferred to New York, where he became an assistant vice president arbitraging cash and futures markets.

Feuerstein has also worked with heavyweight firms such as Westdeutsche Landesbank, Manufacturers Hanover Trust and Chase Manhattan in London. He lived in London for a dozen years and eventually attained British citizenship. After a long haul in the securities industry, he decided to put his considerable language skills to work. So the London-based Feuerstein took his two kids out of school and spent a year - from the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2003 - traveling the world with his wife Jill and their children.

Feuerstein says people were skeptical about his decision. Certainly some might have thought that he was hurting his career. But he has no regrets. "It was one of the best things I've ever done," Feuerstein told Traders Magazine. "We are, I think, much stronger and closer as a family."

Taj Mahal

What a time it was. The Feuerstein family, in that halcyon year, began in London without any pre-conceived plans of where to hang out except to see the world. They took 52 flights, stayed in 112 hotels, hiked the Ayers Rock in Australia and the Great Wall of China, visited the Taj Mahal in India and took a balloon over the temples of Bagan in Myanmar, the country which was once known as Burma.

Despite the sometimes protests of their children, Ben and Betsy, a boy and girl who had turned 11 and 14, the Feuersteins hiked as often as they could. Today, he proudly reports, Ben and Betsy love walking around New York City and exploring new ethnic areas.

Feuerstein, in his travels and experience with many different cultures and currencies, has decided opinions about market structure: Electronic exchanges will likely continue to be very successful, he argues. "Their transparency is just unbelievable for the institutional as well as for the retail trader," he says. "I strongly believe, for instance, that the [NYSE] specialist system is dead. It is just a matter of a year or two before that happens. There is no reason for the specialist to take ticks out of a trade."

Feuerstein says he felt strongly about the superiority of electronic markets before he went on his around the world trip. However, he says his beliefs become stronger because of his travels. "I saw all this much clearer when I visited some of these developing countries that were virtually starting their markets from scratch and realizing that electronic exchanges are the way to go," Feuerstein says. He adds that the United States has been lagging in this area. The futures market went electronic in Europe while in Chicago there has been resistance. "In this respect, unusually, we are behind Europe," Feuerstein says.

Feuerstein also says the American marketplace is too fragmented. Feuerstein notes that Europe, as a region, is moving faster toward the centralization of markets that will overcome these fragmentation problems. "In general, Europe is way ahead of us," says the man who traveled the world with his family.