Female executive claims: 'City firm fired me for being a woman'

“The process has changed since 2006. We didn’t have ‘early looks’ [where companies introduce themselves to investors before the IPO process actually starts] back then. This time, we had over 40 ‘early look’ meetings, and I found that very useful.” Such meetings will have helped CMC’s bankers – Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley – to gain an initial handle on likely valuation.

As well as institutions, CMC has offered shares to its most active clients – who get a bonus share for every 10 purchased – and is undertaking a retail offer through private client brokers.

Cruddas, who with his wife, Fiona, owns approximately 90pc of the shares, will take his stake to roughly 60pc, with Goldman, which bought a 10pc stake in late 2007, also reducing its investment to allow a free float of 25pc of the shares.

“The reasons I’m listing are primarily for business reasons. I came back into the business in 2012 as chief executive [after a spell as chairman] and over that time I set about changing the business for the better.

“We’ve launched new technology, and fine-tuned it, grown the business and launched some new products.”

The tech launch – which involved £67m of investment, all of which has been written off – was to boost CMC’s mobile and tablet offering. “Almost 50pc of our business is done on mobile devices,” notes Cruddas, a figure which has trebled in the past three years.

“The business is in good shape,” he says, as he outlines targets to get from £144m of revenue last year to £250m by 2020. As to why the public route, as opposed to another private investment, he speaks with a certain sense of entitlement. “It just feels right that we should be a public company. The business needs the status – we’ve earned the right to be one.

“I think it will enhance the next stage of our growth,” says Cruddas, who admits that the increased visibility a company receives from being public will help attract clients. “We will appeal to a wider audience –we are already getting a lot more calls.”

That audience is, he admits, predominantly male – 90pc currently – and of working age, with 60pc aged between 25 and 50. But the business is about far more, he says, than allowing City workers to make side bets away from the eyes of compliance officers. “We have seen a lot more professional people coming into the industry,” he says, citing the prevalence of doctors and accountants among his clients.

“What we do is open up 10,000 of the world’s financial markets via a mobile phone. It’s possible now for a taxi driver to pull over to the side of the road, trade a product, and he gets the same price as Goldman Sachs.”

What his long-standing external investor thinks of that claim remains to be seen, but Cruddas is adamant that CMC does something different, with IG Group the firm’s only close comparator. “I don’t think I’ve got enough recognition and credit for what I’ve done in terms of opening up the world’s financial markets to the man on the street,” he protests, unprompted.

But isn’t what CMC is doing slightly scary, given the lack of financial education in society surrounding the simplest of products, and the potential for investors to lose their shirt if stop-loss facilities are not used?

“The demand is there,” he insists, noting that new customers can use a demonstration account before risking their own money, pointing to stop losses and the firm’s focus on customer education. “We bend over backwards” to help, he asserts.

In the six months to September last year, CMC had more than 44,000 clients who had traded, and the firm had processed 34m trades – an average of 772 trades per client over that period – or about four a day.

But Cruddas hasn’t always been so busy. Having left Shoreditch Comprehensive in east London at 16, his first job was as a telex operator for Western Union, where he took an interest in the trading floor. He joined Bank of Iran as a commodity trader, and, aged 35, set up Currency Management Consultants with £10,000. “I can remember that time… when I started with one phone and one desk in an office in London Wall.”

That business offered currency dealing over the phone, and began to take off thanks to the Gulf War, when banks in the region asked him to act as a go-between with Western institutions for foreign exchange. He was later quick to spot the benefits of the internet, and moved online.

Cruddas’s return as chief executive in January 2013 came after an intense period during which he resigned as co-treasurer of the Conservative Party after newspaper allegations relating to his fundraising techniques. He sued the paper involved, and initially won £180,000 of libel damages, but that was reduced to £50,000 on appeal last year.

Did the incident work in his favour? “You could say that. It brought me back full-time, and I love being involved with it [CMC]. It’s a lot more rewarding than being involved in politics,” he says.

His links to politics aren’t over completely, however. He has donated £1m to the Vote Leave campaign, to lobby for Britain to leave the European Union, but insists he hasn’t been to its headquarters since Christmas. Of the public listing, he says his family are “very proud” of what he has achieved.

“Not only did I start a company, but I also created a new industry – online trading. I think this is a great British business story which is overshadowed by some of the appalling press that I’ve got over the past few years.

“When you look back, I started with nothing, but now I employ more than 500 people. I pay my taxes – I’ll be paying the full capital gains tax from any money that I make.”

Cruddas, 62, insists the coming IPO isn’t taking money out. “I’m selling down the minimum amount I have to. I’ll still have 60pc, and I’m going to carry on working here for the next five years. I’m locked in for two years for 100pc of what remains, and another year for 50pc.”

Nevertheless Cruddas will take home around £200m from the float. “I’ll inject some of that into my charitable foundation,” he says – a foundation to which he has previously vowed to donate £100m over the course of his lifetime.

“I’ll pay tax on the full amount. And then no plans. It’s not going to change my life. I come in here each day because I want to. This is about the business, I promise you.”