Leo Melamed, 79 years old and a Holocaust survivor, gave a speech titled “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” at Northwestern University on Tuesday, April 3rd.
Today he is the Chairman Emeritus of the CME Group the world’s leading and most diverse derivatives marketplace, headquartered in Chicago. He is largely recognized as the principle founder of financial futures, getting his idea directly supported in writing from Milton Friedman for a mere $7,500 dollars in a deal made in the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, thus launching a new line of business that catapulted the value of the CME to new heights. As of April 5th, 2012 shares of the company are trading at close to $300 dollars. The CME is part of a global industry growing by billions every year. Mr. Melamed spoke to commemorate the CME Foundation’s grant to the Harvey-Kapnick Business Institutions Program. The donation is being used towards an exciting new program at Northwestern University–”Risk, Markets, and Society.”
Mr. Melamed believes that business is the driver of societal change, and he believes that free market capitalism has greatly benefitted from the ability to trade financial instruments in a marketplace. Due to the changing rates between currencies, for example, the ability to have a floating exchange rate bought and sold in a regulated marketplace gives businesses with international operations the ability to hedge their input commodity risks more efficiently.
The positive nature of the market industry that Mr. Melamed built in Chicago is now creating thousands of jobs worldwide as other countries attempt to copy what the CME has achieved. Mr. Melamed is now focussed on China and believes that they are Communist only in name. He cites the truly amazing fact that contracts of the CSI 300 index can be traded in large volume today in Chinese markets. In 1991, he founded his own consulting firm, Melamed & Associates, of which he is chairman.