President and Chief Executive Officer, MasterCard
Born in Khadki, right outside Pune (Maharashtra), Ajay Banga has risen to become one of the leading personalities in the finance and tech-world.
Banga grew up in a military family and was schooled across India – Secunderabad, Jalandhar, Delhi, Hyderabad and finally Shimla. Not inclined to serve himself, he went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree in economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University – one of the most competitive schools in India. In addition, he completed his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Banga’s experience is his greatest asset. In 1981 he joined Nestlé. For 13 years he worked in a variety of departments, ranging from sales to marketing to general management. For the following two years he joined PepsiCo. His vision to launch PepsiCo’s international fast food franchise in India, as the economy liberalized, is a true compliment to his acumen.
In 1996 he joined Citigroup as head of marketing in India for the consumer business. His rise in Citigroup was nothing short of remarkable. Within four short years he was promoted to head CitiFinancial and the US consumer assets division. In 2002 he took over the retail bank in North America (his first spell in the US) and in 2005 he was named to head Citigroup’s international consumer-banking and finance business. Banga enjoyed a brief stint away from the US, when he moved to Hong Kong in 2008, to oversee all of the bank’s business in Asia. He oversaw credit and consumer banking, institutional banking, wealth management and alternative investments.
In 2009, Banga joined MasterCard. He was soon poised to take over as President and Chief Operation Officer, replacing Robert Selander, who evolved MasterCard from a member association to a NYSE-listed public company. MasterCard’s chairman, Richard Haythornthwaite, assured stakeholders and investors of Banga’s ability. He emphasized Banga’s “expertise, experience and industry knowledge, as well as his deep background in financial services encompassing many geographies”.
Since, Banga has truly revolutionized MasterCard. A payment-processing and finance company since its inception, MasterCard has been transformed into a technology innovator. “MasterCard 2.0”, as it is popularly referred to, aims to successfully compete with and defeat its main rival Visa. MasterCard is already doing that in Europe, where it is preferred over Visa. But Banga continues to face two major hurdles: to get customers to choose credit over cash and to get these consumers to choose MasterCard. He believes the real challenge lies in the latter, as there is already a major shift towards credit over cash. From day one, his aim has been to make innovation a priority, for a smoother purchase experience can completely tilt the axis in their favor.
With that as his end-game, he launched MasterCard Labs in 2010. PayPass, launched in 2012, was the first product to come out of MasterCard Labs. This contactless technology is already being used more than 2 million merchants in over 60 countries. MasterPass, a digital wallet, conveniently stores your personal data and enables a purchase from any device, using any brand of card. Contrary to other digital wallets, which were met with little excitement, MasterCard is making MasterPass its biggest digital push yet. With constant product updates and offering the ability to make purchases within apps rather than just at mobile websites, MasterPass looks to win the digital payments market. Even still, Banga continues to pioneer new technologies involving biometrics and contactless payments.
Banga’s business insights coupled with his leadership skills separate him from the crowd. He continues to perfect new business models while having a clear vision for the future. It was therefore no surprise when he was appointed as a member to President Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors if the US-India Business Council (USIBC), of which he is the longest-serving chairman. He serves a member of the US-India CEO Forum and co-chairs the Board of Directors of the American India Foundation.
In 2016, his portfolio of achievements earned him the Padma Shri from the Indian government and was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal in 2012 and continues to serve as a fellow of the FPA.
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