With a shaved head, Todd Hanson still looks like a Marine. He drills military veterans in how to trade foreign currencies, ambushing the market at the most profitable moments.
“Right now, we're just waiting and watching,” Hanson recently told a class.
His mission at WexTrade Financial is to build commodity traders out of ex-soldiers, underwriting their training with federal funds.
Settling veterans into the futures markets is a highly unusual idea. Among the civilian jobs listed by the Veterans Affairs Department are nurse, truck driver, beautician and cemetery caretaker – humble salaries compared with the millions of dollars a successful trader can command.
Still, the economic home front can be hostile to enlistees who once made life-or-death decisions.
“You're used to being God for 20 people,” said Hanson, who was awarded the Bronze Star. “You come back here, and the job market is flooded. You find yourself flipping Big Macs, wondering where your prestige went.”
WexTrade is waiting to receive accreditation as a certificate program under the GI Bill, which would enable veterans to be reimbursed for its $5,000-a-month courses.
Disabled veterans already qualify for the reimbursements. Of the 309,540 veterans who paid for their education through the GI Bill last year, just 14,513 attended a vocational program similar to what WexTrade offers. The classes range from one to three months.
The company has graduated students from three courses, leaving the biggest challenge ahead as those traders test themselves in the markets. A solid trader can land in the penthouse; a failed one in bankruptcy court.
Some graduates will land at WexTrade, dealing for the house account.