With more than 1,600 players representing 87 nations, the Women’s Tennis Association‘s (WTA) competitive season includes around 50 events and four Grand Slams staged across 28 countries. It distributes approximately $180m in prize money annually, and, since payments are dictated by the currency of a tournament’s host country as well as the currency of the recipient’s bank account, ensuring cross-border payments are made quickly and securely is of the utmost importance.
Some 70% of players under the WTA’s banner make a living playing in the qualifying rounds of its tournaments, often earning their weekly funds for the next set of business expenses – such as flights, accommodation or tennis gear – on tour. This is why it is important for the WTA to not only support tennis holistically but to ensure that player payments are executed promptly through a financial partner who understands the industry.
With this in mind, the WTA has made it a priority to improve currency preferences, all the while maintaining accuracy and timeliness for the transfer of funds to players. As such, in 2017, Corpay (then known as Cambridge Global Payments) was identified as the WTA’s official foreign exchange payment provider, and, over the past five years, the partnership has grown considerably.
Both parties have stated that this partnership is about strengthening the WTA’s objective to offer players the best foreign exchange solutions and, ultimately, pay their players quickly. Whether facilitating payment communication within the wider organisation or building on the WTA’s commitment to supporting players over the course of their careers, bolstering the WTA’s financial resources has strengthened its member services across the board.
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“The WTA is, at their core, incredibly supportive of women in sports, committed to reducing gender disparity within business, and ensuring an exceptional player experience,” says Rhonda Power, SVP for the global enterprise management group at Corpay Cross-Border. “Our values align, which can’t be overstated in its importance. There’s really no prospect of long-term engagement with a partner if you don’t have an affinity to their mission.”
WTA’s COO and treasurer, Matthew Cenedella, agrees, stressing that Corpay has delivered on that affinity of values in the realm of navigating current events.
“When your metric is your ability to run tournaments and pay players,” he says, “and something of the magnitude of the pandemic happens, or the conflict in Ukraine, it goes a long way to have a partner who is not only committed but practical in how they deal with these issues.
“There’s no way [previously] that we would have been able to support players to the level that we would have wanted. It would have taken three months to make any necessary payments.”
Cross-border payments: a fruitful partnership
According to rankings and prize money coordinator Mason Trapen, in 2016, with the continued growth of women’s tennis, the WTA made the decision to review its partnership, as well as products and services that were available in the marketplace. “We were immediately impressed by Corpay’s professionalism and understanding of our financial objectives,” he says. “Because our business is unique, we needed to ensure that our foreign exchange provider had a clear understanding of the needs of our members and the timeliness in which the payments need to be distributed.
“We noticed that, over time, we required faster turnaround time. Now, if we have a problem or query, we resolve the issue in a matter of minutes or hours. With a heavily complex paradigm like the WTA’s, which has a lot of moving parts, to be able to have trust and confidence, even if there’s a mild hiccup in the process, that’s invaluable.”
Cenedella also points to recent major world events putting that trust and availability to the test.
“There are always going to be idiosyncrasies as it relates to money transferring into different bank accounts,” he says. “And you can probably imagine the kind of unique challenges posed by the recent situation in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.
“As long as we have the right information from the player, most of the time any hurdles around sanctions or currency discrepancies can be managed effectively. What we need is speed and consistency from a knowledgeable cross-border payments platform, so that there are as few barriers in the way as possible. Corpay keeps an eye on all those moving parts and effectively works as an extension of our operation to provide the best service possible.”
From Corpay’s perspective, there were many opportunities to offer creative solutions to WTA’s international needs. Corpay’s Rhonda Power saw their relationship with the WTA as a way of collaborating to ultimately build trust among players and members.
“There are so many variables involved with each payment,” says Power. “It could be the first time a player receives funds through Corpay and the WTA, or it may even be the first time a player has competed in a tournament away from home, so we work closely with the WTA throughout, to ensure that everything is in order at the beginning of the process, and to mitigate any potential issues.
“Of course, one of the biggest challenges to delivering cross-border payments is the constantly evolving political landscape and regulatory factors in different jurisdictions. Players associated with the WTA are from all over the world, and to facilitate payments to their home countries, we may need to make some quick adjustments in our service delivery process.”
Building cross-border payments for the future
Colin Shirriff, an executive account manager at Corpay Cross-Border, is responsible for the day-to-day relationship and facilitating player payments. He says the key to the success of the partnership is that both parties see their goals as long-term ambitions, rather than quick fixes to potential problems.
“We’re always looking to add value wherever we can,” Shirriff adds. “One of our main goals is to continue to enhance our currency capabilities, whether it’s the actual listing and general offering or the modality. So how we’re sending the payment, how expeditiously, how consistently, and having a good understanding of our clients’ pain points, all of these things are ultimately what differentiates Corpay Cross-Border from our competitors.
“In the case of our partnership with WTA, as with other clients, sharing industry knowledge with other members of the team plays a crucial role too. In the event that I’m not available, for example, the WTA stakeholders are confident that my colleagues can resolve any issues with the same level of priority handling and professionalism that they have come to expect.”
Ultimately, finding the right cross-border payments provider is not only about the efficiency of the product offering; it’s about building a partnership based on shared values, and having access to a range of expertise, so that should any problems arise, the issue can be handled with sensitivity, understanding and speed.