When Jim Oliff resigned from the CME Group board a couple of weeks ago several friends reached out to him to check on his health. They figured such a sudden exit from the CME board of directors after 31 years must be because of a health problem.
That is not the case. Jim Oliff is healthy, wealthy and wise. The wealthy and wise parts are a combination of being a CME member and having earned a wealth of experience and industry knowledge from his years as a key insider at the CME during its ascendency over the last 30+ years.
The mustacheod Oliff is looking for his next opportunity to contribute to the industry after leaving his beloved CME Group, which he still has a tendency to talk about as “us” and “we.” He still is a CME Group stockholder and stakeholder, so I guess the “we” and “us” still does work for the time being.
He is not looking for a job, but perhaps another board spot or consulting gig. He still has gas in the tank and a passion for this industry.
He acquired this passion from his father, Hershel, who was also a member of the CME Group.
Jim Oliff found a home at the CME in the British pound pit, though I remember him sharing a trading story with me about a large Canadian dollar position he unloaded on a cocky CME trader who demanded the “balance” of the position Oliff was trying to move. The trader was not expecting the more than 1000 contracts he had on at the time, Oliff told me. Oliff’s badge was FILO, which he joked stood for his not-always-winning trading strategy, First In Last Out.
Besides his work with the CME Board, Oliff also spent 11 years as deputy chairman of FFastfill.
Like his father, Oliff served as chair of the CME’s gratuity fund. He spoke at every annual meeting about the state of the fund and the death benefit that was payable to a member’s family.
Jim was chairman of the education committee, which spawned the first ever ethics training for exchange members, employees and exchange employees. He holds a law degree from Northwestern, so he knows a thing or two about the subject.
Another effort he championed was the electronic transition committee, trying to help CME members adapt to the then new and growing electronic trading world. The education committee devised the electronic trading lab that was open to members and the public and featured various ISVs and news platforms.
He chaired the strategic steering committee and was among the members who crafted the demutualization plan that ultimately led to the CME becoming a publicly traded company. In fact, he presented the demutualization and the IPO plans at annual meetings of the exchange.
Oliff also chaired or co-chaired various clearing house risk committees and served on the board of CME Clearing Europe and the CME European exchange, the latter two of which are being closed. He also served as chairman of GFX, the foreign exchange committee and was an active member of the business conduct committee.
Most recently he was the head of the CME Group Foundation for the last three years. Ask him about this work and his face just shines as he tells the story of helping students and teachers.
Oliff was the vice chairman of the exchange when it went public. He stepped down from that position when the CME bought the CBOT, and that position was offered to then-CBOT Chairman Charlie Carey.
He leaves the CME board, he believes, in “good hands with a very capable board of directors and a CEO that has a very principled vision and direction for the CME,” he told me.
He leaves on good terms with one and all and considers CME Chairman and CEO Terry Duffy to be a good friend and confidante.
For his part, Duffy offered the following when asked for a comment, “I want to thank Jim Oliff for his 31 years of service to the CME Group board of directors,” Duffy said. “I greatly appreciate working with him and our friendship all these years.”
Leo Melamed added, “Jim Oliff was one of the most devoted board members of the CME. Over the years, we worked in unison to achieve the results which made the CME Group as great as it is. The board will miss his wisdom and insights.”
As I said, Jim Oliff is healthy, wealthy and wise, and looking for his next challenge.