Crain’s: Futures broker R.J. O’Brien is on an international binge

The 105-year-old firm is banking on expansion to survive in a dog-eat-dog environment.

Chicago futures broker R.J. O’Brien & Associates is a survivor, outlasting and outsizing local rivals over its 105-year history. Now its future hinges on international expansion.

The firm added an office in Dubai last year, opened a Paris outpost this year and is eyeing inroads to Singapore, CEO Gerry Corcoran says. Acquisitions are an integral part of the strategy, and it’s evaluating European acquisitions as well, he says.

Corcoran’s plans may be as much about defense as offense in combating the big New York banks and acquisitive international players that have come to dominate the industry, elbowing aside smaller Chicago firms that grew up alongside futures exchange giant CME Group. With revenue under pressure in the U.S., it’s a dog-eat-dog environment pushing smaller brokers like R.J. O’Brien to pursue global opportunities.

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