Cantor Fitzgerald's CEO Five Years Later

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Howard Lutnick had a daunting road ahead of him after Sept. 11, 2001. The chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees in the terrorist attacks, had to manage his grief for his lost coworkers, including his brother, Gary, but at the same time rebuild his company. Lutnick was taking his son to school for his first day of kindergarten when the planes hit the World Trade Center, where Cantor Fitzgerald occupied floors 101 and 103-105 of the North Tower. Since that day, he says he's made it his mission to help the victims' families. "I have personally grown very close to and very connected with 658 families who have a broken heart just like I do," he told TIME. "They are always a part of my life now."

In five years, Lutnick transformed a company that had lost more than half its employees into a success. The company has now become two — Cantor Fitzgerald, an institutional brokerage company, and Bernard Gerald Cantor, a wholesale brokerage business. In August, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York added Cantor Fitzgerald as a primary dealer permitted to trade U.S. Government Securities with the New York Fed.

But Lutnick and the majority of Cantor's 1,200 employees have worked hard not to lose sight of the victims' families. On Oct. 1, 2001, each family received a $5,000 check and promised continuation of health benefits. Today, Lutnick's sister Edie runs the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, which has donated $185 million to the victims' families. "What we've found is it's not the money, it's that they feel that we know they exist, that we care about them, that we love them," he says. And September 11 is "charity day" — all of that day's revenues are donated to the CFRF, which totaled $7 million in 2005. "Those two companies have, on the shoulders of our original employees and the hundreds of new employees who have joined us, been able to do wonderful things for our families, take extraordinary care of them," he says. "That is the definition of success."

As for regrets on the decisions he made post-September 11, Lutnick says he has none. "I'm so proud of what we've accomplished," he says. "Would I change a darn thing? I would not. We are here, and I don't think we can pick and choose how it worked out." He says his life is now filled with "tremendous joy," thanks to his family. His daughter starts kindergarten this year — on Sept. 11. "That's where I'll be with my wife," Lutnick says, "on my daughter's first day of big-girl school."