Trump to Nominate Virtu Financial’s Viola as Army Secretary

  • Viola’s a graduate of West Point and former infantry officer
  • Army secretary is senior civilian overseeing Army forces

Vincent Viola, the billionaire founder and executive chairman of the Virtu Financial Inc. high-speed trading firm, has been picked by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next U.S. Army secretary. 

Viola, the son of a truck driver and a homemaker, is a West Point graduate and former Army infantry officer who served in the 101st Airborne Division. The position of Army secretary requires Senate confirmation.

Viola at Trump Tower in New York, on Dec. 16.

Photographer: Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

“Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge,” Trump said in a statement announcing the decision.

The Army secretary is the top civilian official in the Defense Department responsible for its policies, the size of the force, its weapons systems, bases and financial management. Trump has pledged to work toward an active-duty Army of about 540,000, as big as the one that President George W. Bush sent into Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s up from about 475,000 personnel today.

“I will work tirelessly to provide our president with the land force he will need to accomplish any mission in support of his National Defense Strategy,” Viola said in the statement. “A primary focus of my leadership will be ensuring that America’s soldiers have the ways and means to fight and win across the full spectrum of conflict.”

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Viola’s net worth is estimated at $2.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He founded Virtu Financial in 2002 and took the electronic market-making firm public last year. An earlier attempt at an IPO was shelved in 2014 after Michael Lewis’s “Flash Boys” brought the high-frequency trading firm under attack.

Viola served as chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange from 2001 to 2004, after starting his career on the Nymex trading floor and working his way up through the organization.

He won plaudits for his leadership of New York Mercantile Exchange after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks killed 32 employees, members and others who had worked at the exchange. Viola helped rally board members in the days after the terrorist attacks, holding a board meeting at West Point in upstate New York, a move that showed his leadership and care for his team, former Nymex chairman Richard Schaeffer told Bloomberg News last year.

Viola is also the owner of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, which in June updated their jerseys with a crest inspired by armed forces insignia in a nod to Florida’s military community and Viola’s Army heritage. 

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