By 1999, Tom Sosnoff had been successfully trading OEX options at the Chicago Board Options Exchange for nearly 20 years. That’s something rare. Most traders fail within a year.

At the time, a few professional quoting and trading platforms – like Bloomberg and Schwartzatron – had become available. But the world was changing. The Internet was spreading, and broker-dealers were beginning to launch their own online trading platforms for retail clients. Sosnoff looked at the possibilities of trading online, off the floor, and saw nothing but hard-to-use interfaces that offered no option trading beside covered calls. Thus, he saw an opportunity.

In 2000, Sosnoff put together the team that started thinkorswim, and the members of that group are still together today at tastytrade, their current financial media company. They were traders and technologists who built what they thought would be the best trading platform ever – not just an improvement on existing platforms. It focused on advanced option strategies and sophisticated analysis but was still intuitive and easy to use. 

Beyond the technology, thinkorswim succeeded through customer service. Sosnoff, answered customer email messages personally and not just during business hours (which, at thinkorswim, started at 5:30 a.m. and ended at 7:00 p.m., on good days), but also at night and on weekends, too. 

In the process, thinkorswim revolutionized the retail trading world. It was a leap ahead in trading technology. Other brokers were left playing catch up, and most never did. In 2009, after TD Ameritrade acquired thinkorswim, Sosnoff recognized that trading technology had become largely commoditized and that growing the customer base and converting people to a smarter way of trading required more. 

Since its inception, thinkorswim has had acontent component. But in 2011, Sosnoff decided to revolutionize content, and that’s how tastytrade was born. With eight hours of live streaming market content every day, tastytrade is unlike any other financial medium. Like thinkorswim before it, tastytrade is often copied, but never duplicated. When financial journalists talk about probability or volatility, they are generally basing their statements on content from tastytrade.

To support tastytrade viewers who wanted to trade on the strategies outlined on the shows, Sosnoff launched another brokerage firm, tastyworks. tastyworks’ CEO is Scott Sheridan, Sosnoff’s long-time partner since his days of trading OEX options. 

Through it all, three elements have remained constant in Sosnoff’s endeavors. He has focused on customer service, built confidence that his team would succeed and maintained his belief that hard work pays off in both trading and entrepreneurship. — Tom Preston