If I were to list some of the incredible things my good friend Joe Ratterman has accomplished in his life, the fact that he’s a Guinness World Record holder might not even crack the top ten.
After a successful career in which he worked to improve competitive balance in the financial markets, Joe had earned the potential for an easy, carefree retirement. But his values, his faith, and his commitment to helping others wouldn’t let him go dormant. Today, I consider Joe to be one of the leading humanitarians and philanthropists here in Kansas City. Joe is an inspiration to me, and to anyone looking for a way to make the second half of their life potentially more meaningful and fulfilling than the first.
On this very special episode, I’m honored to sit down with Joe Ratterman to discuss his views on the evolution of the financial markets, how his values informed some major business decisions, and what he’s doing right now to help Kansas City’s most vulnerable citizens.
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“Monopolies act like monopolies, and it’s not good for the markets.”
Joe started his career in information technologies including being one of the original 13 founding employees of the Better Alternative Trading System (BATS) Global Market.
“This was a strategic play,” Joe explains, “to try and improve the markets with the benefits of the competition that we saw from the previous generation that had all been wiped out. That’s where starting BATS came from, seeing that there was a dearth of competition, and we wanted to put pressure on the two monopolies, NASDAQ and NYSE. Because monopolies, they act like monopolies and it’s not good for the markets.”
Wall Street started to take notice of what Joe and his team were doing. But a technological failure put Joe in the unusual and very awkward position of having to cancel a planned IPO.
“The reason that we made that decision was because we couldn’t continue forward and guarantee our investors a good experience,” Joe explains. “The investment experience was at serious risk, and I didn’t want new investors in our firm to start off with that first impression. So, we hit the undo button, went home with our tail between our legs, and came back two years later stronger, better than you could possibly imagine.”
I can remember just how embarrassing and how public that failed IPO was at the time. But for Joe, the experience taught him valuable lessons about humility and faith that continue to inform his life today.
“I think leading up to the IPO, I had an attitude that my faith was what I did on Sundays and after work,” Joe says. “And I think that was maybe a learning opportunity that God gave me to realize that He cares about what I do all day long. In fact, He cares about the health and vitality of the company that I work at. It’s a growth opportunity for employees, it’s a place to make a living and care for their own families. And we had, as a company, I think maybe gotten used to success, and had never come to realize that we might fail. I don’t think it was an overt pride, but it was a lack of learned humility.”
Under Joe’s refocused leadership, BATS rebounded and was eventually purchased by CBOE Global Markets for over $3 billion.
“It’s going to sound cliché, but there were multiple times in my own personal career that difficult decisions came in front of me,” Joe says. “And making ‘the right decision’ not the easy one, or the least painful one, ended up, in the long run, being the right answer.”
“You know that you’re reaching in…”
Even as Joe was running BATS, repairing its mistakes, and repositioning it for the future, he was already actively involved in charitable work. Joe is the person who approached me about joining the board of Angel Flight Central, and he’s made 138 flights helping folks access life-saving medical care.
“I think a lot of executives have that false view of life,” Joe says, “that you spend your time when you’re young building a career, and then that time will come when you can do all those good things. I think that whole theory is completely wrong. That day may never come. I didn’t have this jump off and start doing more charitable work experience. What happened to me in the transition was I just got to spend more time doing the things I was already doing because they were part of my life.”
While attending mass one Sunday, Joe was struck by a sudden urge to help the homeless. His family started assembling and handing out care packages to help folks stay warm. In 2008 that led to Joe and his wife Sandy creating Hope in the Streets, a charitable organization that provides food and supplies to the homeless, and then in 2014 founding the Worship Wagon.
Joe says, “Every Monday night, downtown underneath a bridge, we gather together with volunteers, church groups, and the homeless population, and we have a full church service that we put together on the spot. And it’s been, in my mind, one of the most rewarding and satisfying things that we’ve done outside of the corporate world, because you can see the effects of what we’re doing on the people that are attending. Hardened homeless individuals, tough as nails, secretly crying as they hear ‘Amazing Grace,’ as you know that you’re reaching in and that God’s tugging on him to draw him closer.”
What did I say at the beginning? I haven’t even mentioned Joe’s Guinness World Record yet!
You’ll have to listen to the podcast for that story, but it’s another amazing example of Joe Ratterman finding a way to make the world a better place.
I dedicated my book, Keen on Retirement, to all of the clients I’ve had the privilege of serving over the years that through hard work, character and responsibility were able to start from nothing and build a fulfilling retirement for themselves and their families. Joe Ratterman and his wife definitely fit that bill and in addition have found so many ways to add back to the stream of life. They inspire me as much as anyone I’ve ever known. I hope Joe’s story strikes a chord and gets you thinking about your journey to date, this holiday season, and your next phase of life.
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Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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