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Spotlight with John Allen, VP Sales, Eastern USA, Washington DC

Michelle Lee August 21, 2018

Tell me about your role and how your position supports Cambridge’s mission goals and success?

I’ve been with Cambridge for eight years. I came in first as a Trader, then eventually transitioned to a Regional Director and now I am the Vice President of Sales for the Eastern USA. In my role as VP, my job is to support our core book of business and bring on new businesses as well. Part of Cambridge’s goal is to identify new verticals, and one of the verticals that we have identified and I have worked very closely on over the last several years is in our NGO vertical.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Some days are busier than others in terms of my meetings scheduled. My typical day would consist of reviewing numbers from the prior day, seeing where we stand as a company, dealing with any outstanding issues, whether it be new hires, HR, etc. Lastly, with any free time I have, I make sure I am assisting the team and going after new businesses on my own.

What attracted you to join Cambridge?

Before Cambridge, I was at a small boutique firm and there was no differentiation of roles there. I wanted a more structured organization that was working very diligently toward technological solutions to the problems that we faced when trying to send cross-border payments and dealing with FX. Cambridge was clearly investing heavily in those sort of resources.

Did you know you always wanted to go into this field?

Absolutely not. I was intending to go into politics, but I was quickly disenchanted with that entire world and I happened to go into the cross-border payments and currency space.

If someone on your team were to describe you in one word, what would the word be? And why?

Fair. There is a reason why I do things the way I do them.  I think everyone knows that, there are no grey areas in terms of how I operate. What you see is what you get.

How do you handle frustrated clients while ensuring exceptional customer service?

The key is making sure that they feel understood. Sometimes when you are providing a service and something doesn’t go as it should, people are going to be upset, and we understand that. We make sure to give clients the opportunity to voice their frustration. Apart from that, we make sure the issues are being solved. The only thing that is more annoying than dealing with a problem once is dealing with it repeatedly. Making sure that we are working on resolutions and really pushing the internal stakeholders in each department to do what they can. At the end we want to make sure they feel understood and we are solving their issue in a satisfactory manner.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

The most rewarding thing, particularly in the NGO sector, is when you solve a very difficult problem for a client. We recently had a client that had problems with delivering funds to a student studying in India. Cambridge was able to deliver what other partners had failed to do. At the end, the client got an email from the student thanking them. I think those are the most rewarding, when you are actually able to offer a worthwhile solution to a client in need.

What are three career lessons you have learned?

1. There is no substitute for hard work.

2. As difficult as it can be, there is a great deal to be learned from failure.

3. You can accomplish far more with a reliable team than you can alone.

How do you define success?

For me, success is creating an environment that people want to come into. We all have to go to work, but if it is not a struggle and if you enjoy what you do, that to me is success. We created an environment that fostered friendship and teamwork at Cambridge – and that to me is success.

What is one thing you have always wanted to try but haven’t?


Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know you have?

I am a pretty good tennis player.

What advice do you have for someone just starting a career in sales?

Stick with it. It is very easy to become disenchanted or discouraged when you are starting off in sales. I didn’t like it right out of the gates, but I was kind of forced into the role at my first job, because the financial crisis happened and there was no giving up. I would say: “Don’t give up.” If you can find a mentor it will really expedite your path and the success you will encounter.