Financial trading firm moves from London to Dublin
Virtu Financial to create at least 30 new jobs in Dublin docklands
Vincent Viola, chairman of Virtu Financial: Virtu is now the largest automated trader on the Irish Stock Exchange, and is believed to have a hand in up to 30 per cent of the Iseq’s trades by volume.
Virtu Financial, one of the world’s top electronic trading firms, yesterday switched its European headquarters from London to Dublin, creating at least 30 high-end jobs.
The US company is now looking to hire Irish-based graduates from mathematics and computer science degrees, up to masters or doctorate level. It said it “fully expects” to hire more than 30 staff in time.
The announcement was made yesterday by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Virtu’s new offices on Dublin’s quays.
Virtu, founded by US investor Vincent Viola, operates as a “market mover”, facilitating automated transactions on the stock market.
It matches buyers of stocks and other quoted instruments with available sellers at high speed, taking a small margin for itself on the transaction.
“We buy on the bid and we sell on the offer, it all runs on an automated basis,” said Mr Viola, a former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex). “But we don’t trade our own capital. We just act as the bridge between buyers and sellers,” he said.
Mr Viola said the company had been approached by IDA Ireland to make the switch from London to Dublin.
It already had a small satellite operation here, but says it plans to consolidate its operations across Europe at its new Dublin base.
Following several high-profile incidents in which automated trading errors were blamed for causing market chaos, such as when the Nasdaq was shut down last month, Mr Viola acknowledged that the practice is facing tighter regulatory scrutiny across the globe. He said he welcomes the development.
“We believe in regulation. As markets get more complex, they need to be regulated more efficiently. Regulation guarantees fairness, and we are as much protected by it as anyone else. It is reassuring,” he said.
Market moving firms must be registered with the exchanges upon which they trade. Virtu is now the largest automated trader on the Irish Stock Exchange, and is believed to have a hand in up to 30 per cent of the Iseq’s trades by volume.
Mr Viola rejected widespread criticism that automated trading firms distort markets. He said the practice brings efficiency and accuracy to the prices of equities and other traded instruments.
“It makes it easier for people to trade. It is just a way of taking advantage of technology. It is a good thing for free enterprise, it should be encouraged,” he said.
Mr Viola declined to comment on rumours that Virtu is planning a flotation, but confirmed that it was planning an expansion across Europe, using Dublin as a springboard.
He said Ireland had been “magnificently courageous” in its approach to the financial crisis. “Ireland took the bitter medicine that other countries weren’t willing to take. It is a good place to invest,” he said.
Mr Viola is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point in New York state. He later served in the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division, before qualifying as a lawyer in the 1980s and entering the world of finance.
He was one of the founders of the Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point, an academic institution and think tank established in the wake of 9/11.
Mr Viola said he was motivated to get involved because of his personal experiences on the day of twin tower attacks. Nymex, which he chaired at the time, lost 32 staff when the towers fell.
“I felt it was incumbent upon me to get involved. The center is an intellectual clearing house of anti-terrorism ideas. It promotes rigorous discussion regarding solutions to ending terrorism.”