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My Kind of Town (Chicago is) – visiting our colleagues in the "Windy City"

"It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago. She outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them." - Mark Twain, 1883

When Mark Twain wrote those words, Chicago was only 46 years old. But since its foundation in 1837 it had already grown more than 100-fold and developed from a small trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River into one of the nation’s largest cities. And it did not stop there; it quadrupled its population again over the next 20 years and went on to become a global city, a thriving center of international trade and commerce attracting people of every nationality.

The World’s Most Competitive Cities Report puts Chicago at the top of all major sectors for Business Investments and of the top 100 global cities, Chicago ranked in the top 8 or better across the board, and 4th in financial services. Of 15 North American cities, Chicago was 2nd in finance. These overall high rankings reflect the diversity of Chicago’s economy. But the third largest city in the United States has more to offer than just business, it is home to dozens of cultural institutions, historical sites and museums, more than 200 theaters, nearly 200 art galleries and more than 7,300 restaurants. Its 26 miles of lakefront offers 15 miles of swimming beaches and 19 miles of lakefront bicycle paths.

Vassilis Vergotis, Chicago Representative Office, about working in the financial center of the U.S.A.

In this interview, we’ll hear an insider’s take on all that Chicago has to offer from Vassilis Vergotis, who heads the Eurex operations in the Americas. While he originally hails from Greece, Vassilis has lived in the Windy City for over a decade and has a deep appreciation for the city of his choosing.

Vassilis, tell us a little about the Eurex office in Chicago?
The Chicago office is shared between several organizations: Eurex, Deutsche Boerse Systems and Need to Know News. Sharing a physical space is terrific in that it really promotes teamwork. For example, since Customer Technical Support and Eurex Sales sit so close together, it has enabled us to cooperate to achieve a number of goals which include knowledge sharing and a joint customer visit program. Our sales staff has benefitted by becoming more tech savvy and our IT colleagues have become closer to the business side.

How many people and how many nationalities are working in the office?
On the Eurex side we’re 20 people, who represent 8 different nationalities including US, German, Swiss, Greek, Brazilian, UK and French and Turkish. If we take the other companies into consideration, our staff count increases to just over 60. All together in the US, almost 20 different nationalities are represented. Our international makeup is a strong benefit as it allows us to more easily connect with our diverse customer base and targets throughout the Americas.

Are there any challenges being a German company in Chicago?
It’s quite the contrary; being a German company in the Americas brings some unexpected benefits. The US in general and Chicago specifically, has strong historical ties to Germany. In fact, I often meet people who are excited to show their personal link to Germany when I mention that I work for a German company. They say “Oh, I’m German too” and what they really mean is that a parent or grandparent or even great grandparent hailed from Germany some time ago. That’s an interesting concept for a European to observe. There are a host of German restaurants, a Chicago branch of the Hoffbrau Haus and the city even holds a Christkindlmarkt in the plaza directly in front of the city hall.
German companies, especially manufacturers, have strong US presences as well in Chicago as in the Midwest. In fact, the German American Chamber of Commerce is very active here and we are a strong supporter.

How do you see the future of Chicago as a global financial center?
Chicago is the birthplace of both agricultural and financial futures and equity options and members of the financial community continue to innovate in terms of product development and trading. Interestingly, the proprietary trading community has kick-started innovation in the area of financial technology by deploying the latest technology in creative ways to enhance their businesses and then trying to monetize their R&D expenditures.
The city has a long history as a center for innovation, both within and outside of the financial services industry. Chicago recently has implemented plans to remain a financial powerhouse, and key to those plans are initiatives to help grow the startup scene. According to multiple sources, a new startup is launched every 48 hours in the greater Chicago area. That’s an exciting growth prospect for the city.

What is your favorite thing about living and working in Chicago?
Summer in the city is phenomenal. Given the generally cold and long winters, Chicagoans are elated when summer finally arrives. And I am no exception. The city offers a host of free programs like concerts, outdoor yoga and other fitness classes in Millennium Park, Chicago’s newest lakefront space, open-air movies in Chicago’s neighborhood parks, a number of music festivals like Blues Fest and Jazz Fest and countless street fairs like Italian fest and the Old Town Art Fair. Chicago’s location on one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan means that we have swimming, sandy beaches, boating and other water sports. I love to grill and often invite friends and colleagues over for impromptu backyard barbecues. Like all of Chicago - especially this year - I cannot wait for spring, much less summer, to arrive!

Chicago facts & figures

Population:2,695,598 (2013)
Weather:In the summer, temperatures reach 85 degrees or more, followed by cool autumn breezes and the season’s changing colors. Winters are cold with regular snowfall, and spring is sunny (often cool) and mild. This past winter, Chicago experienced its most severe winter since 1960 with 70 days of measurable snowfall and extended periods of subzero (Fahrenheit) temperatures. The awful weather prompted social media users to nickname the city #ChiBeria!
Currency:1 USD = 0.73 Euro (April 2014)
Price of a BigMac:USD 3.99
Average rent in private accommodation: USD 1600

Did you know?

·         The first skyscraper in the USA, the 10-story, steel-framed Home Insurance
           Building, was   built in 1884 at LaSalle and Adams streets and demolished in 1931. 

·         Chicago is home to eleven Fortune 500 companies

·         The first Ferris wheel made its debut in Chicago at the 1893 World's Columbian 

·         The Art Institute of Chicago has one of the largest and most extensive collections of
          Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world. 

·         The 1,450-foot Sears Tower, now called Willis Tower, completed in 1974, is the tallest
          building in North America and still one of the tallest buildings in in the world.

·         The term “Jazz” was coined in 1914 in Chicago.

Chicago whereabouts

Where to go: Millennium Park, Chicago’s newest Lakefront public space. All summer long you can enjoy free open-air concerts, complimentary group yoga classes, bring your kids to play in the “spitting fountains” and more

What to see: The skyline seen from the lake. Whether it’s during the day, at sunset or on a clear night, it’s breathtaking.

Where to eat:  NoMi Garden, rooftop patio overlooking Chcago's Magnificient Mile
Where to party: The Aviary, a top-rated bar run by the world-renown chef Grant Achatz.

Where to shop: Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood. It's only a few miles from downtown Chicago, but you'll feel worlds away in this trendy and eclectic neighborhood. Don't miss out on a slice of Peace Pizza while you're there. And on your way home, be sure to stop by Chcago's very own branch of the Hofbrau Haus, which is located just down the block.


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