British provider sees Hong Kong as an ideal market for institutional trading service Currency trading in Hong Kong could be in for a change. Yesterday's launch of CMC Markets' foreign exchange online trading platform promises to deliver reliable services at cheaper prices to both institutional and retail investors. 'We offer an institutional service to everybody and the price is the same whether you trade $100,000 or a $100 million - we do not discriminate,' said Peter Cruddas, CMC's founder and sole owner. Providers of online platforms for currency trading typically do not charge commissions, so the price refers to the spread between buy and sell prices quoted by the company's dealers. For major currencies, that is no more than three pips - or ten-thousandths of a point - or the difference between $7.78 and $7.7997 on the US dollar. That is sure to make ripples in Hong Kong, where the narrowest spread available at present is five pips, according to Mr Cruddas. 'By our estimate, there are 17 foreign exchange firms in Hong Kong and not one of them can beat our prices consistently ... so we think there is a big opportunity here for us,' he said. The son of a meat trader in London's East End, Mr Cruddas, now 51, left school at 15. In just 16 years, he has transformed his company into one of the world's most powerful online trading platforms, giving him the satisfaction a few years back of turning down an offer to sell the company for GBP50 million ($734 million). The decision - which prompted his wife to declare him officially mad - proved wise, judging from the company's latest results, which show a profit margin of 65 per cent and a pretax profit of just under GBP80 million for the latest fiscal year. Later this year, CMC will go public, hoping to value the company at GBP1 billion. Mr Cruddas said the sale of up to 40 per cent of the company would be done mainly to allow him to reward his employees with shares. However, some of the money raised would go towards continued global expansion. 'We don't have the licence yet, but we want to develop the Hong Kong office as our gateway to the Far East and would consider, subject to regulatory approval, putting in a big dealing room here,' he told the South China Morning Post. Yesterday's launch of the foreign exchange trading platform and opening of a local office are the first step. Next month, Hong Kong will become the first market where CMC clients will be able to conduct real-time currency trading on their mobile phones. More than 95 per cent of all trades conducted through CMC are done over the internet, but Mr Cruddas sees great opportunities by going mobile. 'If you look at China, there are 350 million people with mobile phones and six million new ones every month but only 50 million internet connections,' he said, noting that the mobile service will be offered at the same competitive three-pip trading spread for major currencies. The low prices are possible because of the company's efficient software, which is developed entirely in-house and can handle 100 trades per second. The current transaction rate is about 40,000 trades per day. Since it was launched in 1996, the company has invested about US$80 million in its online trading platform. Of its 350 employees, about 100 work on technology development. Some of that development is for other financial institutions willing to pay for the company's expertise, but, according to Mr Cruddas, the work within CMC is nowhere near completed. 'We have this wonderful robust system, but I'm not happy. I want to keep producing the best software and I want to set the standard,' he said, adding that despite his massive wealth - evident in his five homes, including the family's permanent quarters in Monaco, and one private jet - he has no intention of retiring for another 20 years.