From the football pitch to financial tech

Profile catches up with Mark Douglas, the man busy transforming the fortunes of small businesses across the South West with WorldFirst.

Whether it be fate, luck or the chance to pursue a personal passion, most of us are likely to change or pivot our careers at some point. This is especially true for Mark Douglas, WorldFirst’s regional sales manager for the South Western region.

His early ambition was to be a professional goalkeeper and he played to a high standard for local teams across Devon. But when he realised that ‘football wasn’t going to pay the bills’ he took a new direction.

A student of the dot-com boom

“Upon leaving Paignton College, I found myself in a Business Manager role and worked in a Business Start-Up Development Programme,” he explains. “After a period working through many different roles within sales and marketing, I went into digital marketing sales covering the South West for seven or eight years.”

The dot-com boom proved to be a turning point for Mark. He saw the potential of emerging technologies as a force for efficiency – especially in industries such as telecoms, international trade and e-commerce. He decided to change careers and has focused on helping businesses within the South West ever since.

“I spent 20 years in technology and I’ve seen the world change before my eyes. Companies that were start-ups back then have grown to the point that they are global market leaders. In most cases, the secret to their success was capitalising on the technology available to them, or developing it from scratch.”

As Mark explains, WorldFirst does the latter so that its customers – online sellers, importers and exporters – can focus on the former. 

Transforming cross-border payments 

For almost two decades, WorldFirst’s technology has helped customers to manage their cross-border FX transactions, tackle the complexities and high fees that meant they were paying more than they should do, and grow their business ventures internationally.

“When I talk to small and medium-sized business owners today, my message to them is to maximise the enterprise-grade technology available at their fingertips. In fact, I believe this technology has never been more advanced, affordable or accessible than it is today.” 

Working with sole traders, micro, small and medium-sized businesses means there is no ‘typical’ client for Mark. Very often, the decision-maker who wears many hats; they are the sales and marketing director, the finance director, HR director and telesales all rolled into one. 

They are rarely, if ever, prepared to start their international trade journey. This is where WorldFirst has proven itself to be a partner for international growth.

Take, for example, a small business looking to purchase goods from China and sell to customers in America and Japan. They need to convert UK pounds into Chinese renminbi when they are buying. Meanwhile, the customers they are selling to will want to pay in US dollars and Japanese yen respectively. These funds need to be converted back to UK pounds.

Managing multiple foreign exchange transfers like these in parallel may sound like a complex process, but WorldFirst makes doing international business easy.

“Rather than wait for weeks or months to open a bank account, we can help to set up local currency accounts within days so businesses can collect funds from customers around the world. We can help them to transfer money safely and securely across borders and pay their suppliers. We can also repatriate their money back to the UK quickly and easily.”

Small businesses remain an engine for growth

As we embark on a new financial year, what do the next 12 months have in store for small and medium-sized businesses? Mark remains optimistic. 

“2022 or 2023 won’t be without its challenges but I’m incredibly excited to continue working with businesses across the South West. There is a lot to be positive about; I’ve seen first-hand how British companies are engines for innovation and growth. I know the types of customers WorldFirst can help because I’ve worked with these businesses in the past.”

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