Michigan Engineer Article - Lori Mirek
By Debbie Feit (BA '88)
|Lori Mirek, President and
CEO of Currenex, has carved out a position
of leadership in the world of online
Lori Mirek (BSE EE '85) is not intimidated by
As President and CEO of Currenex, the first
online multi-bank global foreign currency exchange,
she is immersed in a world where a flow of one
trillion dollars a day is the norm and rates can
easily change 18,000 times a day. But Mirek's not
"A dollar is a dollar, a yen is a yen. It's easy
to represent in an online transaction," she says.
"It's not like you're moving lumber."
Currenex, founded in 1999 by Mirek and three
friends, brings together worldwide banks,
multinational corporations, government agencies and
-- perhaps most importantly -- funds, in order to
trade on the global foreign exchange market. It
works something like this:
First, clients enter the relevant trade details.
The quote requests are then routed to a single bank
or multiple banks, depending on the client's
preference. Banks enter their quotes and the client
selects the most desirable one.
"We have customers like MasterCard who do
ninety-eight percent of their worldwide foreign
exchange through our service," says Mirek. Other
Currenex clients include Compaq, Home Depot and
So how does an electrical engineering graduate
end up a leader in the world of online finance?
Mirek attributes her solid background in
understanding technology to her University of
Michigan degree and an engineering position with
General Motors. This understanding allowed her to
design and manage artificial intelligence systems,
competitive technology strategies and the first
high-end commercial UNIX servers.
An MBA from Harvard gave Mirek the opportunity to
learn about all aspects of business and presented a
wide range of career options.
"My next series of jobs was all about harnessing
technology to address business-to-business needs,"
she says. "My first post-graduate school position
was with a still small Sun Microsystems in product
management." After Sun Microsystems, Mirek held
senior management positions at Oracle before
becoming general manager of Ameritech's electronic
From Ameritech, Mirek made the move to Senior
Vice President, Head of Worldwide Marketing at
Netscape, serving as a corporate officer and member
of the six-person executive committee responsible
for corporate strategy and marketing. She led a
150-person corporate marketing, enterprise marketing
and solution sales organization. She was responsible
for creating a unified corporate vision that
transformed Netscape into an electronic commerce
software and portal-services company. Through
acquisition, she became Senior Vice President and
General Manager of American Online, where she was
responsible for the strategic positioning of the
company as well as managing all aspects of sales,
marketing and product development within the
"Finally, I decided I wanted to try running a
startup myself," she explains. "Which is when I
founded Currenex with three mentors and colleagues."
In addition to the California headquarters, the
company has offices in Chicago, New York, London and
Singapore, with satellites in continental Europe. So
a typical day for Mirek involves traveling.
"Most often I'm on the road to New York or London
due to the concentration of foreign exchange flows
in those markets," she says. "But I'm also traveling
to anywhere our customers are. So my day is a mix of
customer visits, executive team meetings, strategy
sessions, press and media engagements, emails, phone
calls and airplane flights." All her hard work has
certainly paid off: FX Week has recognized Currenex
with the "Best Multi-bank FX Portal" award.
Asked what she appreciates most, Mirek said she
ranks "the opportunity from Michigan and Harvard to
learn, and the support from my family" pretty high
on her list. But as someone who spends countless
hours on the computer -- three hours daily for email
alone -- Mirek is grateful for one other thing:
"Those 10-hour batteries for the London flights!"
Debbie Feit is a freelance writer whose work
has appeared in Conde Nast Bride's, Good
Housekeeping, American Baby and numerous other
- Michigan Engineer Spring/Summer 2002 (College of Engineering)