NZ Herald business editor at large

Rags-to-riches story for online trader

Trading the financial markets is all about managing risk, says Peter Cruddas.
Trading the financial markets is all about managing risk, says Peter Cruddas.

Peter Cruddas, the billionaire founder of online trading platform CMC Markets, isn't shy about talking about his country's impending departure from Europe.

"I voted for Brexit and I can tell you why," the self-made East Londoner declares. "It's about sovereignty."

Thus begins a passionate rant which might seem incongruous from someone so connected to the financial heart of the UK.

Much has been made of the risks the City of London faces of financial and economic meltdown if banking institutions pull out post Brexit.

Cruddas who made a flying visit to Auckland last week to touch base with local CMC staff and clients isn't having a bar of that.

CMC, which he founded in 1989, listed on the London Stock Exchange earlier this year with a valuation of more than $1 billion.

His is a rags-to-riches success story. Cruddas grew up in the then tough, working-class East London borough of Hackney and left school with no qualifications at 15.

But he found his way to the City of London where he thrived as a currency trader, working his way to management positions before going out on his own to start CMC.

In the mid-90s he was one of the first traders to pick up on the potential of the internet and launched a live online platform for trading currency and trading derivatives that has seen the company grow into a major global player.

"Back in 1989 when I started CMC we had a telephone and we had a telex machine and we had a Reuters terminal," he says.

"In 1994 I realised that if you were an airline you were going to be able to use the internet to sell seats to the public. I thought why not sell financial trading directly to the retail market as well."

Cruddas is happy to talk about the risk of making access to sophisticated and volatile investments - like derivative and currency - so easy.

CMC allows customers to effectively leverage up their trades without actually owning stocks. That creates the potential for new traders to make bigger gains - but also bigger losses.

"We tackle that by making sure that all our clients are appropriate and understand the risks involved," he says.

"We encourage clients to use our demo account ... so before you put real money in you can use our demo account and the prices are the same as the market so you can play around."

Then there are education programmes and support packages.

It's not something for people who aren't fully committed to learning, he says.

"I would always recommend to a retail investor to become a very good technical analyst. That should be your starting point.

"If you are really looking to be a long-term investor, work from charts and then listen to the fundamentals. But the starting point should be charts and technical analysis."

But Cruddas is proud he has offered ordinary people access to money markets that was previously controlled by established banks.

"What we're effectively doing is opening up the world's financial markets. It is now possible for a taxi driver to pull over to the side of the road and trade 10,000 of the world's financial products from his mobile phone and he will get the same prices as Goldman Sachs."

Now we can be more global again ... I think it would be great for us to work with New Zealand on trade rules.
Peter Cruddas

Risky or not, Cruddas traded his way to the top and has a passion for enabling others.

"Trading the financial markets is all about managing risk," he says.

"If you are going to flip a coin every time you trade then you are going to come unstuck.

"You've got to learn to build positions, you've got to learn to take losses and this is where we can help you."

He talks about in-built safety nets - guaranteed stop losses, position limits and tiered margins.

Certainly there have been stories about online trading platforms enabling clients to make big losses. They aren't recommended for the average retirement saver.

"We're learning as a company," Cruddas says. "We've learned about supporting clients and protecting them.

"We genuinely want our clients to make money. If they lose money they stop trading."

But ultimately the choices are those of the individual.

"At the end of the day they have to decide what they want to buy and what they want to sell. At the end of the day you've got a 50/50 trade - the market goes up or down. What you have to do is that if you get it wrong make sure you buck the trend, if you get it right then run the position and put in a trading stop loss."

He doesn't see it as a casino or lottery. "If you think you are going to make millions from a $5000 deposit in a week it's not going to happen. But it's all about making a career out of trading, making it happen and making it enjoyable."

CMC Markets has certainly made Cruddas very wealthy - and relatively powerful within a certain segment of the British establishment.

He was treasurer of the Conservative Party. He stepped down after allegations of involvement in a cash for access scandal ... although he eventually won defamations damage from the Sunday Times which made the claims, and extracted an apology from then Prime Minister David Cameron. Cruddas has no interest in a political career now but he has been an outspoken proponent of Brexit.

But there is a huge demand for the retail market to take control of their own finances. "Absolutely [the City] can thrive. London is the financial capital of the world and the eurozone needs access to capital markets," he says when I counter his sovereignty arguments with the some of the market fears about the banking sector.

"It would be practically impossible, and you would fail if you thought the financial centre of London could move to another country. There is so much infrastructure and eco-system around financial services in London."

People talk about a hard or soft Brexit, but a Brexit is Brexit Cruddas believes. "Full stop."

"I think we'll get a good result," he says. "We need access to the single market but we don't want to be governed by the single market - we will get that.

"German car manufactures still want to sell cars in Britain without tariffs ... It will suit the EU to create a special relationship with Britain.

"Because we are on their borders and a big economy ... why would you cut that country away having traded with them for hundreds of years.

"Now we can be more global again. We have a fantastic proud history of working with the Commonwealth. I think it would be great for us to work with New Zealand on trade rules."

It is the nature of British sovereignty that drives his passion for Brexit. "Our Supreme Court was not supreme any more. It could be overridden by Brussels. Twenty or 30 per cent of laws were being made in Brussels and the thing that grated most was - and it was a massive vote against the establishment - we have had 40 years of integration with the European Union and not once did the politicians ask the electorate: is that what you want?" he says.

"If you look at the European Union, youth unemployment across the eurozone is 40 per cent ... there is zero growth in the eurozone, there is 1.7 per cent growth in Britain."

And look at the debt that has been plied on to some individual countries. What we are we leaving, we're leaving a failed union."

Peter Cruddas

• Grew up in working-class East London borough of Hackney.
• Left school with no qualifications at the age of 15.
• Worked in the City of London as a currency trade.
• Started CMC Markets in 1989.
• CMC listed on the London Stock Exchange this year with a valuation of more than $1 billion.

- NZ Herald

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