The spread betting and CFD trading industry has long proved a natural habitat for people who know their own minds. As an individual who states "I'm not a bookmaker; I'm just a man who runs a business," Martin Belsham is undoubtedly one of them. He is also chief executive of City Index, the figure responsible for keeping the company amongst the spread betting and CFD trading market leaders.
'Responsible' being the operative word. In the aftermath of the downturn, Belsham is committed to seeing that the company behaves sensibly - both for itself and for its spread betting and CFD trading clients. "It's not just about protecting us from bad debts but we also have a responsibility to customers so they don't put themselves in the position where they owe us money."
For this reason, he evolves his company constantly. Having launched the first spread betting and CFD trading application for the iPhone at the end of last year - turning mobile transactions into 10% of the company's business in the process - he is already looking for other ways to grow its audience of spread bettors and CFD traders.
"There's always that infectious enthusiasm with Martin," says Nigel Rose, the spread betting and CFD trading company's finance director. "Change is a constant. You solve one problem, you move to the next."
That single-minded desire is as evident in his personal life as it is in his spread betting and CFD trading life. A shaven-headed, Tory foxhunter (he rides with the Vale of White Horse hunt: "Personally I'd be really happy to see foxhunting legalised again and we are optimistic"), as a boy he chose to attend Watford Boys Grammar over private school.
Belsham prepared for his role in spread betting and CFD trading from an early age by watching his father run a small advertising company, and university saw him catch the gambling bug - although his first foray was into backgammon and the stock market rather than spread betting and CFDs.
He first met and befriended future City Index owner Michael Spencer whilst both worked at Charles Fulton, years ahead of their success in spread betting and CFD trading. He then joined Credit Agricole and went through what he terms his "first mid-life crisis." His wife had given birth to premature twins; one had died and the other was fighting for life. Meanwhile, Credit Agricole was looking to purchase rival bank Banque Indosuez. "And I was thinking, you know what? Relatively speaking, it's not [important]. It was a watershed for me."
In 1999, he left City Index and returned back in 2009 to head up the entire spread betting and CFD trading operation where he has remained ever since, building an audience of spread bettors and CFD traders that today numbers in the hundreds of thousands. On the subject of staying amongst - and even surpassing - their spread betting and CFD trading rivals, Belsham's attitude is predictably robust. "It's dangerous to play someone else's game. I'd rather play my own."
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