How Cambridge Links Cross-Border Payments

October 27, 2015

As cross-border payments proliferate, and companies offer their goods and services across an increasingly global stage, the need for accuracy is as important as the need for speed. For Cambridge Global Payments, which just debuted its Cambridge Link system, payments data and regulatory information go hand-in-hand to ensure that payments get done in the most effective and cost-efficient manner.

As noted by Cambridge earlier this month when it announced the platform, businesses need to know the exact requirements in each jurisdiction in which they transact, which sometimes can lead to a maze of regulations, as Mark Frey, Cambridge Global’s chief operating officer, told PYMNTS.

In terms of specific needs as companies increasingly go international, “it depends on the size of the organization and the type of the organization,” said Frey, who noted that there is an increasingly complex environment governing cross-border transactions, and that the landscape is continually changing in a dynamic way. A company that is conducting business in, or sending payments to Russia, for example, may have as many as five additional fields of data to populate than it might see in other regions, including tax-related information, before a transaction can be completed.

One way the Cambridge Link system helps reduce the friction that can occur in cross-border activity, and in FX specifically, is to simplify the information entry process for corporate treasurers and other professionals who may be working across a large vendor list. Automated information helps ensure that straight through processing can occur (thus the friction reduction). Frey said that codes populate automatically across fields in the Link system, and automated processes help identify pitfalls before manual data entry can cause inadvertent errors, a safeguard that promotes fewer returns.

That can be useful, the executive said, when dealing with, say, a South American country where currency controls are in place. To illustrate, Frey mentioned Colombia, and said that without consistent automation and tracking – and a platform such as Cambridge’s wherein currency regulations and volatility are tracked continuously — it “could be that three or four payments have gone through, and all of a sudden there is an issue with the last payment. The data for some reason here may not be correct in what is needed to settle the transaction.” Cambridge Link, according to Frey, acts as a sentry against such errors (and returned payments) by focusing largely on upfront processes to catch mistakes before payments actually wend their way toward final destinations. “The traditional model is that payments are processed and then flagged,” said Frey, “and that can be a problem because it leaves room for human error.”

Through direct interaction with the back-end accounting systems, Frey said that Link can operate across any number of payments rails, such as ACH or across a broad range of currencies. The LINK platform itself ties in through API – and in effect, companies can “take their platform and build our functionality into it” with ease of use and flexibility through portal displays. The service itself is based on a fee per transaction model, and comes via the cloud – and the interface is intuitive enough that it can be used even on mobile devices, including tablets.

That should appeal especially to those smaller and midsized businesses that may have services internationally but do not have far-reaching payments functionality built into their organizations. This leads to significant greenfield opportunities for Cambridge, maintained Frey, where developers and executives will not be prone to balking at adopting Link precisely because they will be able to layer its functions directly into their own ERP technology. “The key for us is to do execution and integration with those firms where payments are not their forte … though technology is a big part of the story,” continued Frey, the end result is that through local partnerships across 160 currencies, the transactions take on a local dimension themselves. As Frey noted, the ability to do straight through, low cost processing is only as good as the data that is put into the system in the first place.

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