Cambridge Global Payments
Starting from humble beginnings as a two-man operation in Toronto in 1992, Cambridge Global Payments is now recognized as one of the most prodigious and trusted bank-independent providers of global payment and risk management services anywhere in the world.
Cambridge Global Payments has made a massive transition as a company and it all started about six years ago. Significant business growth has remained a constant, the result of which has been movement from more of a regional transactional brokerage to an international payments’ specialist with a trading and payments platform that guides users through the complexities of international payments and foreign exchange (FX) trading.
A notable distinction that separates Cambridge from its competitors is that it’s one of the few companies to have automated its entire end-to-end cross-border payment process for its clients, including integration with the banks.
At Cambridge, the goal is to provide an institutional level of sales, service, technology, expertise and product brand to a mid-sized corporation or customer that typically doesn’t receive that same level of care and attention from a tier-one financial institution. With Cambridge, there is no need to connect to a different piece of technology to send an in-country payment in the U.K, Canada or the United States. There is one point of integration where Cambridge can accept payment types of all varieties in all currencies everywhere in the world.
Cambridge is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies and has been bestowed with countless awards for its innovative technology platforms. The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke with Cambridge Global Payments President Mark Frey about the rapid evolution of the company, especially over the past few years.
“There has been a great deal of positive change in the organization as we’ve matured and evolved,” he begins. “The biggest organizational switch was a change in ownership that occurred in the late summer of 2017 when we were acquired by FLEETCOR Technologies Inc., which is an S&P listed Fortune 1000 company and publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.”
The high-profile acquisition has already yielded numerous positive results for the company, not the least of which is being part of a materially large organization with a $23 billion market cap and access to liquidity as opposed to being far more constricted from a balance-sheet perspective as a standalone enterprise as it was in the past.
“We have more available working capital, which provides us more flexibility in terms of the size of clients that we can serve, the volume and the types of transactions we can execute,” says Frey.
The team at Cambridge Global Payments has made impressive strides in growing its list of clients, and well beyond just small businesses and large corporates. The list now includes a growing number of enterprise-level clients that are Fortune 500 sized firms and tier-one money centre banks. In fact, some of the world’s largest banks are now clients of Cambridge having made an approach seeking liquidity and payment services in particular geographies or corridors where Frey’s company is known to have robust business lines.
“Moving from private to public ownership comes with a myriad of complexities but it bestows certain benefits of being part of a much larger organization and access to additional resources. There are now many more opportunities available which would have been made very difficult as a smaller privately-owned company,” notes Frey.
Under Frey’s forward-thinking leadership a focal strategy is to continue to fuel organic growth and the direct sales model and seeking larger organizations to partner with and ultimately examining inorganic sales channels. The acquisition of business lines and a capability of technological advancements are also core strategies on a go-forward basis that would have been much more constrained in the past as a privately-owned entity.
Cambridge’s pre-existing CEO Gary MacDonald remained in the chair for a little more than a year as part of the corporate transition plan and is still a part of the business today having taken on an advisory role in the Corporate Payments Unit within FLEETCOR. Frey, who previously served as chief operating officer, is now tasked with overseeing all elements of the day-to-day business operations and strategic planning for Cambridge as part of FLEETCOR. Frey was the perfect choice to lead the company’s new business directives having had experience in both publicly-traded and privately-held firms, working with a subsidiary of a very large corporation in a senior executive role.
“For me it was something I certainly felt comfortable with and excited about the opportunity both in terms of what it meant for my own professional development as well as what the future has in store for Cambridge,” he says.
With Frey at the helm he is able to draw upon 20 years of experience and expertise in this particular industry, having spent his entire professional career in the cross-border payments and foreign exchange industry and so his ascension to the presidency was the next natural next step. Growth acceleration through both direct sales and partnership channels is an important part of the strategy identified by Frey, not just on a dollar basis but on a percentage basis, which the company has managed to achieve over the past couple of years.
“We are always taking active steps to become more profitable and efficient in the ways we process payments for our customers in becoming a bigger and better company and adding more value for our clients,” he continues. “Support for our employees is also a key part of our corporate focus and trying to grow as quickly and sustainably as we possibly can.”
Frey wants to build an enterprise that is going to scale materially over the next number of years, which includes doubling in size every three years but also with an eye to improving overall bottom-line margin as well. He makes it abundantly clear that the focus will never be revenue at all costs. It’s also about striving to be a better, more efficient company.
As of now, Cambridge Global Payments has about 14,000 clients globally, trading in more than 160 currencies and in excess of 180 countries around the world. The company provides foreign exchange services, payments and risk management solutions to manage currency volatility for mid- to large-sized corporate entities all over the world. Additionally, Cambridge provides innovative technologies to incorporate a fully streamlined workflow solution for organizations that are processing cash flows and payments across borders around the world.
“We are very heavily invested as a technology-enabled organization in terms of how we go to market and the value we provide to our clients,” confirms Frey. “Part of our journey is augmenting our overall product suite as well. We are still very much focused on those two core components of our value proposition: payments automation and making payments in as local a fashion in as many international markets as possible, providing those risk-management solutions and services to help businesses manage negative foreign currency volatility that could impact financial performance.”
A third component, which is a new product Cambridge is bringing to the corporate market, is invoice automation solutions. This too is very much a technology-enabled solution whereby Cambridge provides a complete workflow solution for its clients from the point of receiving an invoice from their suppliers to processing that invoice in an automated fashion, ultimately resulting in a payment that can be made at a future point in time.
“It’s about expanding our reach and the depth of our workflow solutions whereby our clients are no longer just handing off a payment for us to execute as efficiently as possible. We’re now much more involved and engrained in their overall financial workflow with respect to not only processing in payments but managing of invoices to provide a much more holistic solution in terms of managing global payments,” explains Frey.
The core target market for Cambridge is entrenched in B2B and certainly has evolved over time. Historically, the company began as a small-medium enterprise service provider, working with small businesses and geographies. While still serving that market segment, Cambridge has also branched out to also include servicing of large corporates and enterprise clients and partners that are able to connect with Cambridge’s technology to enable its professional capabilities within their clients’ own native platforms as well. Clients range from those transacting a few million dollars per year to a few billion dollars per year.
The key element for any business is that their payment transactions are handled quickly, efficiently and securely. Without a doubt, those are the main table stakes of the industry.
“Two areas where we differentiate ourselves are the timeliness and accuracy in which we make payments and secondly the quality of our talent and not just the team that is building and servicing technology but our customer service teams that are taking care of the back end but also interacting directly with our clients, providing a personalized experience,” notes Frey.
A continued commitment to investing in the development of technological capabilities has resulted in top-notch accuracy and timelines of payments. Many of Cambridge’s customers are making sensitive payments such as international payroll, where it’s not just enough for the payment to arrive – it has to arrive with guaranteed full value and on time.
In many ways Cambridge Global Payments is very much like a large financial institution with all the same capabilities as a bank. The company could be described as bank agnostic – partnering with financial institutions and regional specialists all over the world with more than 80 banking relationships that are able to be leveraged on a daily basis. The customized technology solutions create a very robust solution and integrated with other networks to permit limitless scalability.
“We have the scalability of a large financial institution while being technologically nimble and we provide very personalized service in making payments and managing currency risk and automating processes. The high-touch customer service paired with the technology is what sets us apart from our competition in the marketplace,” says Frey.
Industry regulation is heavy in the marketplace with individual regulators in each of the core geographic regions. Frey is of the firm belief that regulations keep the industry strong and protects clients’ money, and as such is an absolute positive.
The new invoice automation solution is something that has the entire executive team extremely excited about what it will do in terms of delivering further automation for clients and better workflow solutions that goes deeper into their organizational structure in terms of how they process transactions. Frey is confident this will be a product that will be well received by the marketplace and will allow Cambridge to grow aggressively in the corporate space.
“We have really expanded our capability of making payments in emerging and frontier markets around the world and trying to make payments in as local a fashion as we possibly can. We now establish local in-country relationships so that we can make local in-country payments and it allows us to work much like a local bank would,” he says.
Cambridge is also known for its generosity in giving back to the community by promoting and fostering opportunities for individual teams to take part in charity events, such as Habitat for Humanity. The company sponsors many worthy charities and events through financial contributions and volunteer services by employees.
Frey and his executive team are 100% committed to building an even bigger and better company for external stakeholders, clients, partners and employees, many of whom are amongst the brightest innovative minds within the industry.
“We certainly have ambitions for growth. Our goal over the next three years is to double our business again and turn this into a $500 million revenue company,” he concludes. “We’re also focused on delivering value to our clients and building a sustainable business that is more profitable and efficient year over year.”