In this Women in Fintech segment, Fintech in Focus highlights Raquel Adamschek, Senior Vice President of Corporate Sales and Dealings at Cambridge Global Payments. While Raquel’s education wasn’t obtained as traditionally as what might be expected, she built her professional career through experience and hard work. She discusses how she imparts this experience to her team and offers sage advice to our listeners.
You are listening to FinTech in Focus where our mission is to celebrate the talent and ideas that contribute to the global FinTech industry. My name is Alyssa, and you're listening to this week’s segment: Women in Fintech. Today, we're talking with Raquel Adamschek. Raquel has worked at Cambridge Global Payments, which is headquartered in Toronto.
There, she is Senior Vice President of Corporate Sales and Dealings. Prior to her work at Cambridge, she worked at Western Union Business Solutions as a Senior Corporate Dealer and at Custom House as a Treasury Trader.
So Raquel, you’ve found a lot of personal success. I'd like to take a moment to learn more about where you got your start. Can you tell me about your educational experience? From talking with you a little bit about your story before it sounds like your education wasn't as traditional as some might expect.
“Yeah, it was not a traditional path at all. I came out of school and was a little unclear on what the path looked like. So I did a college diploma in business so it's still business focused, but upon completing that program, I started working right away and have been working ever since.
I love that though. I think it's so important to know that you don't need a ton of education to get where you want to go. It just really takes grit, experience, and practice.
“Yeah, absolutely. I think there's so much more that can be learned on the job. And straight out of school, I took a position. I spent five years as a Conference Coordinator, so I think that set me up very well for a career in fintech. More so on the customer service side. It was a very fast paced environment, a lot of multitasking, a lot of problem solving. So all of that experience really set me up pretty well for the next 20 plus years in fintech.”
That's awesome. So describe to me your path from higher education to ending up in the fintech industry. Fintech is kind of a newer industry, so it's not necessarily something that people look to joining. So how did you get into that? Did you hold other careers that helped you find your place in this industry?
“I didn't, I was, as I said, a conference coordinator for five years and when I went back 20 years ago—when I entered this industry with Custom House—I actually was applying for a position within the marketing department.
That's sort of where I saw myself coming out of the conference management and they turned me down for that role. And I got a call a couple of days later and they said, we think you'd be a great fit in our treasury department. So that's how I started in the industry.
And for a couple of months I was sort of doing some very junior bank reconciliation type work. And then before I knew it, I was managing positions for the entire company as part of the treasury department. And then from there I worked into a customer-facing role as a trader, and it's just been on from there ever since.”
That's amazing, you know, it's kind of like one door closing, another one opening almost.
“Absolutely. Yes. And not at all where I would have really seen myself heading, but it's been a very rewarding career for me.”
What skills did you find helpful or that you can apply to your career now that you might not have been necessarily something that you expected?
“I think all of my experience prior to joining Custom House and then Western Union and Cambridge is really– The key thing that stands out for me is really just that problem solving and customer service aspect. That has been my focus from day one and those skills, they're not really skills you learn in school. Like we were talking about, these are skills you learn on the job and there, I believe what has carried me through. And obviously you have to have a little bit of drive there too. And then I suppose multitasking and being able to perform in a high pressure environment, being able to think quickly and respond are key aspects as well.”
Did you have any mentors who supported your vision for yourself?
“I did and probably somewhat uniquely still do. I've sort of had the same mentor my whole entire career in fintech. So, Mark Frey, who is our president now, we started working together at Custom House and made the trends, obviously were acquired by Western Union. And then we made the transition to Cambridge together as well. So Mark has been sort of that role model-teacher-advisor throughout my entire career. He probably believed in my ability before I did. And I think when I think about somebody who's a mentor, I think about somebody who's your biggest cheerleader, but also somebody who is not afraid to give you that constructive criticism when you need it. And he's been that for me. I've been very fortunate that sort of throughout my entire career, he's been somebody that I could look up to and sort of model my behavior after. But I think we developed a strong relationship that we can have sort of those constructive conversations.”
“Yeah. And I'm just really fortunate too that I'm a part of an executive team that has a lot of very strong female leaders within that executive team, which you don't always see. So that's been a really, really supportive environment for me as well, in terms of mentors and people who inspire.”
Right, and this is kind of a similar question, but it might have a different answer. Is there anyone who you looked up to, or were inspired by for your professional or even personal growth?
“You know, again, I would probably go back to Mark just because we've worked so closely together for so many years and half the time, I didn't even realize that it was happening. I just feel like he's been the one who's guided my career throughout the whole time. And there's been other people who have come in and out, but nobody that's had really a lasting impression.
And then again, this executive team that I'm a part of. And the fact that there's a lot of very strong female leaders has been very inspiring for me as well.”
That's amazing. That's really great to hear. It's really our experience and our capabilities are really derived from the people that we see and their qualities that we admire.
“Yeah, absolutely. I've been very lucky.”
What are you most proud of in your professional career or even in your personal life? If it applies.
“Well, I could probably touch on both of those. I think on the professional side, I'm probably most proud of my leadership ability. So, like I was saying, I don't think it's something that I ever really set out to do. I spent the bulk of, not the bulk, but half of my career as a very strong and successful individual contributor. Leadership wasn't really on my radar, but it's something that I work very hard at and I'm constantly looking to continue that growth.
I'm probably particularly proud of the team that I've created and the team that we've built. I hope that I've provided a supportive and creative environment for them but I think that's probably the thing I'm most proud about in the professional side. And on the personal side, I think it's the family, work-life balance that I've been able to create. And set a good example for my daughters as a working mother. So it's not always easy. It's a demanding job but I think I've managed to create that balance. Sometimes the scales tip a bit but I am very proud of that as well.”
That’s especially impressive. And you know, 2020 and 2021 and everything that those years had to offer and likely continue offering.
“Yeah. Well, they've definitely had me home more, that's for sure.”
Let's move on to your perspective on the fintech industry. You have a unique worldly perspective as someone who's worked with a B2B global payments business. What evolutions have you seen in the fintech industry? Or are there any changes that have occurred in the last decade that have had an impact or that you've noticed specifically.
“Yeah. I think kind of specific to my world, we're seeing a lot more technology-based financial services outside of the traditional banking industry. So, the non-bank competitors in the non-bank world have become true competitors. We have capabilities to be more innovative and to ultimately deliver more value. And I don't think that's something that you were seeing as much 10 to 15 years ago.”
It's almost a different world. Where do you think the industry is heading? What are some of the more important industry trends that we should keep an eye out for?
“Well, I think for us, we're looking at technology at the forefront and I think the digitization of currency, risk management, that side of our business, having more technology employed allows us to simplify processes, to automate operational tasks and generate more value for our customers.
We have the ability to provide more visuals of client exposures and allow them to employ scenario planning tools to choose the right strategies as a business. I think, too, there's probably a pretty big element of AI that will continue to play a part in learning and responding to customer preferences. We're starting to see a lot more of that in products and it gives us the ability to drive efficiencies, like automate some of those back-end processes and ultimately streamline how we provide service. So I think that's going to be a key player going forward as well.”
Absolutely. Now onto my favorite section. I really love to encourage the idea of women supporting women. And it sounds like you share in that goal. According to some of your colleagues, you've put a lot of effort into training and encouraging the personal growth of the women that you lead. And you have specific experience in sales, is that right? There are generally fewer women in sales leadership positions. So can you tell me about your experience in developing your role as a leader in this field?
“Yeah, I would love to. This is my favorite topic. I think women are underrepresented in sales in general, not just in sales leadership.
So I think there's just such a big misconception that a successful salesperson has to be aggressive and almost pushy. And I think there's just nothing that could be further from the truth. So, I spent a lot of time as a dealer and I never considered myself a salesperson. People would say, ‘Oh, you're good at sales.’ And I would say, I'm not sales. I don't do sales. But I think maybe that was half the battle for me is that my approach was very collaborative and very solutions-based. And I had a focus and this was just because of probably my personality, but my focus was on developing relationships with customers and understanding their needs.
And, through that, I achieved the same results as perhaps a more aggressive traditionally viewed salesperson. But I did it by influencing customers and delivering value in a trusted relationship. And I just think that people don't think of sales like that necessarily when you hear 'sales.' You think aggression and you've got to constantly be trying to push something on somebody. And that was just never the way that I approached it and it was incredibly successful. So I think, then I grew into leadership from there because I saw an opportunity to sort of grow a team in the same way that I grew customer relationships.”
There's really almost like a gentle power in the art of influence.
“It really is. Yeah, and I think it's very underestimated.”
In general, and in your experience, is there a difference in men's and women's sales styles? And also, how have you utilized or nurtured those skills in your team?
“Well, I think there is a distinct difference in approach to style, and, in my opinion, most women. I will add - I don't have enough of them on my team. It's a very general sense. I think women do focus on connecting and collaborating and providing solutions to problems.
Much like how I described my approach, I think that in general, I do see that in women. I think men are perhaps more focused on driving outcomes and improving processes. And I think there's merits in both and both ultimately result in success, but I think it's about blending them and nurturing those differences in your team. And really I think that success in sales comes from being yourself, so it's whatever works for you and really just being yourself.”
Absolutely kind of building those relationships based on truth rather than trying to be pushier.
“Right. And trying to fit into a mold of what you think a successful salesperson is.”
Absolutely. And why should more women go into sales? And if they do, which skills should they build if they're interested in it?
“Well, I think that there is so much opportunity in sales. And in particular for women, I think a sales role provides a lot more flexibility than many other professions. And that's great for working mothers. The fact that time spent at your desk isn't as important as results and you can deliver those results all hours of the day. It doesn't have to be in a traditional 9 to 5 desk role. It's a key focus for me going forward in terms of our recruiting efforts, too.
To try to create more diversity and bring more females into B2B sales, skill wise. You know, it's not all technical. I mean, obviously we're a fintech company, so there is a technical aspect, but I think a lot of that can be taught on the job. You know, sales is about problem solving in a collaborative environment. That's what you're doing.
So, you need people skills first and foremost. You need to be able to talk to people. I think anybody can learn the basics of what it is they're selling on the job, but you need to be comfortable talking to people and you probably need to like it. And you need to have some drive behind that. But it doesn't need to be this aggressive mold that everybody thinks it does.”
I love that advice. I think that's really great advice. And before we wrap up, I wanted to ask you if you have any advice for women who are currently in school or who are out of school and interested in joining the industry.
“I would just say do it. It's such a rewarding career path and there's so much potential. I just really see so much potential. There always is in sales. It probably helps to be interested in what it is that you're selling. So if you're not really interested in finance, maybe fintech's not for you. But, in terms of sales, it's having an interest and then a desire to talk to people. It doesn't take a lot, you just have to be a good problem solver.”
Absolutely, it just boils down to problem solving sometimes.
“If you can solve people's problems, you are going to be successful.”
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