Here's an interesting story outlining CMC Spread Bet's owner background - Peter Cruddas'
TO GET TO Peter Cruddas's office, you have to negotiate that unglamorous eastern fringe of the City, where the flash banks and towers fade away to be replaced by lockups and sweatshops. His office window faces east, across the hinterland of Brick Lane and into Hackney.
Over there, somewhere, is the site of the school he went to as a boy, Shoreditch Comprehensive. As Cruddas states later, angrily, it isn't there any more - an example of this country's failure to sort out inner-city State education. He's the classic Cockney sparrer who made it big. We are told by Shares Magazine that Peter ended up redundant by Western Union aged just 18 after which he 'ended up in a bank dealing room', again operating a telex machine, before he worked his way up to become a trader. At the time he primarily dealt in the foreign exchange (forex) arena with his last job at the now-defunct Jordanian Petra Bank, which he left aged 35 in 1989 to set up Currency Management Corporation, as CMC started out back then.
He still talks as though he could be manning a market stall on EastEnders - except on the programme they never swear, and Cruddas swears a lot.
Not that he cares. 'I've got a £10 million apartment in Monaco, a £5 million house in England, another fantastic house in Antibes, a yacht and a private jet,' he says, leaning back in his chair, with a huge grin on his face. His fortune is estimated at £320 million but it could be a lot higher. He reckons his company will soon be worth £1 billion - and he owns 100% of it.
In fact, Cruddas is so successful he could soon lay claim to being the richest selfmade man in the City - a title currently held by Michael Spencer of Icap. Cruddas is running Spencer close and, at the rate he's going, will leave him behind.
Today, this son of a Smithfield meatmarket worker will open up for business in China. Later in the year, he will set up another office in Europe. The day we meet, he's just flown on his own plane from Monaco, where he lives most of the time, to City airport. "One hour and 40 minutes." A model of the jet sits proudly on his desk. His office is a surreal affair: an antique mahogany desk, old leather chairs, an oil painting, the full range of Louis Vuitton desktop accessories, side tables groaning with family pictures, trophies and awards galore. On three sides, the room is encased in ultramodern floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
Outside, there is a sea of computers and mostly young people, working flat out, taking calls and tapping away.
Some of the awards are from golf, which he plays off a five handicap, soon to go down to three. "I'm getting round in two or three over at the moment," he says, also letting slip he's just joined Monte Carlo Golf Club, home to some of the richest golfers in Europe. Others are from business, where he's been named Entrepreneur of the Year.
In some respects he's the ultimate Loadsamoney character, unashamedly flaunting his wealth. But there's a very serious side as well. Cruddas is a formidable businessman; he is intensely driven and, despite his many millions, he has no intention of giving up. "This year I'll take £25 million out of the company. I don't know what to do with it, so ideas on a postcard, please," he says, beaming. He means it - he really doesn't know what to do with all his cash.
So, how's he done it? His company, CMC, is a market leader in internet financial spread betting, contracts for difference and foreign exchange. If it moves, he will trade it, apart from sport betting, which he leaves to others.
The rest - equities, indices, derivatives, commodities, oil, currencies - are his domain. CMC is an online market-maker, owner of CMC Markets, a share service for private investors and, in an increasingly lucrative departure, provider of software to institutions to enable them to set up their own trading platforms.
The firm employs 220 people worldwide, including the US, Sydney and now China.
Some 150 work in London and, of them, half are developing new software.
"If you ask us, what we are, I'd say 50% is a broker/dealer and the other 50% is a software house," says Cruddas. "On the face of it, we look like any other company but our strengths are our technology and the prices we offer.
If you ask our clients, they'll say it's our prices they like - but that's because we've developed the technology. It's the technology that gives us the ability to offer rock bottom prices.
Our unique selling point within the company is technology. Outside the company, it's our prices."
CMC makes its money by volume - six million trades last year. "We can process thousands of deals per minute with the minimum number of people. We write our own back office and front office. It saves on overheads and we can process more accurately and more instantly. Very few - if anybody - have this technology."
By rights, Cruddas should be down there, in the huddled-together East End streets. Instead, he's up here, in a smart building, with the financial community eating out of his hand. How he got to this position is a story of fierce, burning desire. He grew up in poverty. His father drank what money they had, his mother was a cleaner. He and his twin brother, now a cabbie, had to hold the home together. He left school at 15 and headed for the City, working for Western Union as an office junior. "I did the night shift on Christmas Day at 16." Then he became a telex operator in a bank.
When he displayed a knack of calling the deals better than the traders, he was allowed to have a go himself. He was a natural. He joined Bank of Iran and then Marine Midland, working as a commodity and forex broker. At 35, he decided to go it alone, starting his own operation, Currency Management Consultants. He hit the big time when the first Gulf War came and he was asked by Arab banks - with whom he had good contacts - to act as a middleman with Western institutions, sourcing foreign exchange for them. A few years later, with the internet still in its infancy, he was shown a fledgling software system that enabled currencies and commodities to be dealt in real time over the internet.
He was instantly grabbed. (Other firms had turned down the idea as unworkable.) This year, he says, CMC will make "£30 to £35 million net. Last year, it was £11.5 million. Next year, it will be £50 million. After that, it will be £100 million". The company he started, "with 10 grand" will soon be worth £1 billion. "How do you become a billionaire?" he asks, smiling broadly. "Well, I've turned down £2 million, £7 million and £50 million for the business. How many people can turn down £50 million? My wife says I should see a psychiatrist. I left school at 15 and I've always wanted to prove I'm a bright guy. I believe in what we do - and I love the adulation."
There are those in the City who turn up their noses at this "geezer", who operates at the speculative end and on the internet.
Cruddas doesn't care. "The City isn't sure what we've achieved. A part of the City doesn't like us. Their attitude is, 'we've got a nice cake here guys, let's not make it smaller. There's a bit for you and a bit for us'. And then I come along and undercut them." He laughs. And he's off at a tangent, again. "You know, if you want to succeed in business, you must never be undercut. Not ever. If you allow somebody to undercut you, you're vulnerable."
He's 51 now, less of a ducker and diver, more of a strategist or, as he likes to call himself, "director of the bigger picture".
He's got four children by two marriages.
"I drip-feed 'em. They all want their own careers and want to make their own way in life. Giving 'em money isn't a good way to bring 'em up." Still, he muses: "They quite like being in the Bentley and going on holiday in the jet."
What does the future hold? He has thought in the past about floating the company but so far it has come to nought.
"I guess one day I will because I will have to reward the staff with shares." He's in no hurry, though - he's enjoying the thrill of the battle too much. "I live in Monaco and I play golf, but I don't want to give the impression I don't work hard. I never stop."
His and the company's difficulty, he says, is being so good: CMC can't recruit staff fast enough. "We're looking for 50 to 70 people. We're crying out for more people. Right now, our biggest problem is having too much business and not enough people. We're trying to keep up."
That afternoon he was flying to China, which is where he will be today. He's going scheduled long-haul. "If I went in my own jet, I'd have to stop to refuel." He adds, as an afterthought: "I'm going first class." Naturally. And why not?.
LIFE AND TIMES OF PETER CRUDDAS.
EDUCATION: Shoreditch Comprehensive.
FIRST JOB: teleprinter operator for Western Union.
KEY CAREER MOVES: starting foreign-exchange dealing company Currency Management Consultants, later shortened to CMC; developing software for financial trading on the internet.
HOBBIES: golf, Arsenal.
July 12 2005 Update - Peter Cruddas was named as the richest man in the City by the Sunday Times, with a personal fortune of £830 million.
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