Advantage Futures

Operational Excellence

Interview with Mike O'Brien, Vice President of Chicago Operations for Advantage Futures

September 2009

When it comes to operations, the devil is in the details and no one recognizes this more than Mike O’Brien, Vice President of Chicago Operations for Advantage Futures.

Advantage Futures Chairman and CEO, Joe Guinan, describes Mike O’Brien as “the consummate team player–leading by example with incredible hard work and consistently superior work ethic.” Mike has been with Advantage since 2003. He began his career in the futures industry as a runner on the trading floor in 1988 for Hennessey Grain. Since then he worked for six years with Merrill Lynch and seven years with AB Financial.


Operations are the backbone of any good FCM. If you can’t consistently ensure the accuracy of trades and reconcile those trades with the exchanges, you won’t last long in this business. Mike delivers this consistent accuracy for every CME, CBOT and CBOE trade cleared by Advantage Futures clients. In addition, he oversees floor order data entry, reduces and corrects out-trades, and assists clients with position questions and requested reports.

The Operations Team includes 16 employees, eight of whom work on the CME Group trading floor, including three runners and two key punchers. Ten employees report directly to Mike O’Brien. “We have one of the best operations team in the business, and their attention to detail and pride in their work separates us from other FCM back office teams,” said Mike.

The bookkeeping process conducted by operations uses the automated GMI system, which is third party software run on the AS400 operating system. It is a clearing depository that includes data from clients, risk, exchanges, and front end vendors. GMI is the standard in operations software used by much of the industry. Mike and his colleagues use GMI to create and tailor reports for specific client requests or internal research. Many clients request preliminary statements during the day and the Advantage Operations Team produces these customized reports in various formats–by commodity, price, trading month, floor trades versus electronic, etc.

Advantage completes daily statements for clients through night processing, utilizing the AS400 operating system. Operations personnel ensure everything in the bookkeeping system balances and is accurate by the end of the trading day–before these nightly statements are generated. The Operations Team uses nightly reports to balance each exchange bookkeeping position and confirm Advantage is in agreement with exchanges. This procedure is usually completed by 5 a.m. CST before the markets open.


The CME Group produces the “out-trade of commodities within the firm based on number of transactions” report, showing percentage of out trades over a three month period. As stated in the August 2009 report, Advantage earned a 3-month average of 1.52% versus the exchange average of 3.84%. This reflects the Operation Team’s diligent timeliness and accuracy is more than 250% better than the average of firms clearing CME Group products. Mike noted, “We pride ourselves on this figure.”

“Clients often comment on how much more comfortable they are with Advantage as their clearing firm because they know they receive accurate, timely information. Floor traders frequently mention that their out-trades have greatly decreased since they began clearing through Advantage, even though their volumes have not changed.” Mike stated, “My team double checks every trade card throughout the day while other firms may only look at them once after they are time stamped. This extra effort helps us minimize mistakes.”

The Advantage Operations Team interacts with clients on a daily basis, and encourages this contact to confirm positions or ask questions. For example, if a client wants to be contacted with their end-of- day position, operations runs a report and will notify them of their position. “A client might think they were 4×4 on the mini Dow, when in reality they were 4×5, a position which could go against them. We help clients avoid these potential costly mistakes by generating reports like these. Additionally, we try to provide the cleanest, most error free statements on the street. Clients trust us through this process and appreciate our unique commitment to this level of excellence,” states Mike.


The futures industry is constantly evolving. The shift to electronic trading marked one of the most dramatic shifts in the industry and the Advantage Operations Team adjusted their processes to meet the increased trade processing cycle and the need for accurate real-time snapshots of client positions. As the industry continues expanding with increased product offerings and more exchanges, the operations team remains dedicated to meeting client needs. Mike welcomes the increasing complexity of his job knowing he not only ensures peace- of-mind among our clients, but he can truly deliver information that will help them make critical decisions that can ultimately make them more profitable.

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