Cambridge Mercantile Group
In a global economy, the efficient movement of funds around the world is critical to the success of any growth-oriented business. Cambridge Mercantile Group is one of the largest and most trusted bank-independent providers of global payment and risk management services; a company founded on the highest level of service, security and solutions for businesses of all sizes.
With more than 14,000 clients worldwide, Cambridge is a leading provider of cross-border payments and hedging strategies, powered by award-winning technologies. Through extensive knowledge of foreign exchange and operational excellence, Cambridge delivers a superior level of service to clients through an experienced trading, consultative sales and client support team. With offices strategically located around the globe, including North America, Europe and Australia, Cambridge facilitates the secure movement of over $20 billion annually.
The Toronto-based company began in 1993 as a precious metal brokerage, offering basic foreign exchange currency services. In 2000, co-founders Bernard Heitner (CEO) and Jacques Feldman (President) realized they wanted to focus solely on
corporate clients, providing payment capability to businesses making cross-border payments. What emerged as a two-man company in 1993, has grown to over 375 employees on four continents. “The basic business model of service, security and solutions is the same, but the size and complexity of the business is completely different,” says Heitner.
Gary McDonald, Managing Director, Corporate Development and Partnerships, says Cambridge’s focus on corporate payments and risk management coincided with two major shifts in the industry. First, the overall increase in cross-border transactions, currency volatility and a heightened regulatory environment. Secondly, the use of technologies and hedging solutions to accommodate clients’ growing payments needs. “At that point, the partners decided to focus on developing these technologies and product solutions to meet the more sophisticated needs of clients making large and complex payments,” according to McDonald.
The company did not set out to achieve a certain size; rather, they aspired to offer the best services and solutions in the industry. While the initial efforts of many companies focus on driving sales (prior to securing a sound financial and operational infrastructure), Cambridge developed solid banking relationships, a compliance regime, and an operating structure capable of handling multiple transactions through a highly efficient straight-through process. Once these structures and systems were in place, Cambridge was able to leverage its infrastructure and drive sales with a knowledgeable inside trading group and outside consultative sales team.
“One of our business philosophies was it would be better to walk than run, especially in the complex and highly regulated FX payments business.” says Heitner. “By making sure Cambridge had a sound compliance regime and infrastructure, and by taking on no debt, Cambridge was in a very strong position to manage through the financial crisis.
This position allowed us to emerge from the financial crisis relatively unaffected and to finance and implement a fast-paced growth strategy.”
Investments in Technology
Cambridge plays a vital role in the way clients manage their cross-border payments by identifying their needs and providing appropriate business solutions.
“We offer consultative risk management solutions, and become a part of our clients’ business in terms of their strategic planning, forecasting and budgeting,” says McDonald.
“Only when we fully understand the client situation do we recommend the proper product and technology solution that meets their specific need. New technologies, including online trading platforms, file integration, web services and multi-enterprise solutions are emerging as preferred options for many companies.”
Cambridge Online, an industry leading payments platform, was launched in 2009 with the aim to provide a functional system with the highest levels of security and efficiency for clients of all sizes. The system was designed to handle simple transactions, to more sophisticated needs such as file uploads and multi-enterprise solutions. The “ezTrade” and “ezPay” features were well received by clients in North America and the UK, helping boost Cambridge’s overall client acquisition and growth over the past four years.
The company has since begun to regionalize the online service for better compatibility with systems and regulatory requirements in the recently launched region of Australia.
“Since it was initialized, the Cambridge Online platform has been a robust solution, streamlining and simplifying the FX processes for clients and providing them with an easy way to manage their ongoing payments. We continue to be relentless in delivering new enhancements to our products to better perfect the user experience,” says Heitner. In 2013, Cambridge was awarded the Global Financial Market Review (GFM) award for Most Innovative FX Platform in North America.
Canadian-EU Trade Agreement
Because of its prescient vision, Cambridge is now favourably positioned to respond to what will certainly be an increased demand for its services, as a result of the Canada-EU free trade deal which will see Canada gain preferential market access to the 28-member European Union and its $17 trillion economy.
“[The agreement] is going to have a tremendous effect on our business,” says McDonald. “Whenever there is a potential for increased international trade, there is going to be an enhanced cross-border payment requirement and, importantly, the need for risk management strategies to protect a company’s bottom line. Companies like ours are in a prime position to assist clients with their payments and to provide risk strategies.”
Vision Going Forward
“When you look at a company like Cambridge, one of the primary assets we have is our overall international payments and risk management knowledge,” says McDonald.
“Looking at the aggregate knowledge of the leadership group— all the traders, consultative salesforce, legal, compliance and operational teams — Cambridge possesses the unbridled ability to develop new and innovative solutions to handle clients’ growing payments needs. Having remodelled the business
over the past 20 years from a transactional FX brokerage business to a leading international payments and risk management provider, we are in a strong position to continue expanding organically and in new markets.”