New tech lets Mastercard diversify

Many Filipinos probably think of Mastercard as simply a credit and debit card brand.

But Li Li Ling, director of MasterCard’s Start Path, Asia Pacific, said, “Mastercard is more than just a payment solution.”

Mastercard, while maintaining its status as a leading global payments company, is also a technology company that has expanded its partnerships beyond banks and now connects directly with consumers, businesses, merchants and even governments.

While payment anchors most of its initiatives, Mastercard is also initiating and developing and/or supporting innovations that will add value, convenience and functionality to the products and services it makes available to its partners and clients.

Thus, it has become a patron of startups, a supporter of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and an advocate of financial inclusion.

At the recent Singapore FinTech (financial technology) Festival, or SFF, Mastercard discussed how it was harnessing advanced technology to bring its services and products to a broader audience, provide clients fast, safe and seamless diverse transactions and reduce to the barest minimum—if not completely eliminate—old and emerging threats, like frauds and scams, that still make many people wary of digital financial activities.

It is, for instance, developing an application that will truly revolutionize the drive-through concept in fast food joints. A motorist, while driving, can order food and pay for it using a built-in computer program in his/her car. He/she can then just zip through the restaurant to pick up the order. Initial rollout of the program would be in GM cars, which has technical features that make it “connected,” Ling said.

It was announced recently that the ride-hailing service Grab would be partnering with Mastercard to strengthen its GrabPay payment scheme in the Phlippines.

Mastercard is also developing solutions that are not reliant on the internet, knowing that in many areas in Asia Pacific, such as the Philippines, connectivity is spotty and unreliable. In Singapore and a couple of other cities, for instance, commuters pay for their rides by just tapping preloaded cards on payment machines in transport stations. Ling said, “There is no need for internet connection [for this payment system].”

She said Mastercard was also finding ways to connect with MSMEs and help them grow, as well as trying to reach the “unbanked,” which constitute a significant portion of the region’s population. In the Philippines, as reports from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas show, there remain areas that are not serviced by any bank, resulting in the financial exclusion of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of Filipinos.

Future developments for increased security, enhanced service and broader reach might be driven by progress in the field of artificial intelligence.

Steve Flinter, practice lead for artificial intelligence and machine learning at Mastercard labs research and development, noted the “democratization of AI (artificial intelligence) technology” that had allowed the development of more practical uses for the scientific advance.

“AI is no longer exclusive for and from people with PhDs (doctorate degrees)” and confined to university laboratories, Flinter said. The technology, he said, mattered for banking because of the potential, “the huge opportunities,” for security process improvement.

It would also enhance consumer interaction with their banks and allow new interfaces through augmented reality.

Flinter expects better detection and reduction of incidence of fraud, greater data security, improved efficiency and more accurate identification, such as identifying people through the way they interact with their devices.

AI technology is expected to provide banks and other businesses more specific data about consumer needs, preferences and spending habits while at the same time affording better security for personal data that clients would want to keep safe. The development of “anonymization” technology with the use of AI is expected to result in greater security for personal information of consumers.

Todd Lowenberg of Truata, one of the startups Mastercard works with, said their technology “supported general data protection” by collecting and aggregating only the information needed to customize products and services to market demands. The data would and could not be connected in any way to individual persons.

With this kind of anonymization, Flinter said “AI would be used to drive the next phase of interaction with customers.”

He said Mastercard worked with startups “with relevant technology that can solve Mastercard’s and customers’ problems,” like Truata.

Other Mastercard officers who addressed SFF were Ari Sarker, copresident for Asia Pacific, who discussed “Future Proofing in a Hyperconnected World” and Rama Sridhar, executive vice president, digital and emerging partnerships, Asia Pacific, talked about “The Network Effect: Why Co-opetition is the New Disruption.”

John Lepore, Mastercard general counsel, policy and advocacy, participated in a forum on “Cash, Cheques, Cards, Crypto—The Changing Definition of ’Money,’” which concluded that the world would not be going cashless any time soon. —CONTRIBUTED

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