FIN­TECH: The Fu­ture of Pay­ments

Mas­ter­card Sin­ga­pore coun­try man­ager, Deb­o­rah Heng, tells Feng Zengkun about key de­vel­op­ments in fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy


Mas­ter­card Sin­ga­pore coun­try man­ager, Deb­o­rah Heng, talks about key de­vel­op­ments in the pay­ments tech­nol­ogy com­pany’s work in fraud de­tec­tion and smart mo­bil­ity

With the num­ber of dig­i­tal pay­ments ex­pected to soar world­wide in the com­ing decades, pay­ments tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies have their work cut out for them. Deb­o­rah Heng, Mas­ter­card’s coun­try man­ager for Sin­ga­pore, talks about how the com­pany is in­vest­ing in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) in­no­va­tions and other cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies to bet­ter pro­tect cus­tomers and make their lives more con­ve­nient.

“The speed at which busi­ness is done, trans­ac­tions are made, and data is moved will in­crease, along with the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of cy­ber­se­cu­rity threats”

Com­pa­nies to­day are all un­der­go­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion. What are the most ur­gent chal­lenges for Mas­ter­card?

One of our key ar­eas of fo­cus is de­vel­op­ing new and seam­less ways to pay, so that cus­tomers will en­joy greater con­ve­nience with more op­tions. We’re also in­vest­ing in safety and se­cu­rity to pro­tect the dig­i­tal ecosys­tem. To­day, about five to six bil­lion de­vices are con­nected glob­ally. In seven to 10 years’ time, it’s go­ing to be 50 to 60 bil­lion de­vices. The speed at which busi­ness is done, trans­ac­tions are made, and data is moved will in­crease, along with the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of cy­ber­se­cu­rity threats. That’s why we are fo­cus­ing on th­ese ar­eas.

How is Mas­ter­card tack­ling th­ese chal­lenges? What in­no­va­tions is it in­tro­duc­ing?

Global in­ter­op­er­abil­ity—the abil­ity for dif­fer­ent sys­tems to un­der­stand, ex­change and use one an­other’s in­for­ma­tion—is cru­cial for the dig­i­tal world. So we are fo­cused on cre­at­ing glob­ally in­ter­op­er­a­ble stan­dards to power the dig­i­tal econ­omy. One ex­am­ple is to­keni­sa­tion, where sen­si­tive data in a sys­tem such as bank ac­count num­bers is re­placed with an un­de­ci­pher­able to­ken, thus keep­ing the orig­i­nal data se­cure. On the in­no­va­tion front, we are de­liv­er­ing prod­ucts and so­lu­tions that make it eas­ier for con­sumers to pay more seam­lessly and se­curely. Th­ese in­clude bio­met­ric cards, QR codes and wear­ables for pay­ment, dig­i­tal wal­lets, and the use of an­a­lyt­ics, AI, and bio­met­ric so­lu­tions to en­sure safety and se­cu­rity in pay­ments.

How is Mas­ter­card us­ing AI to im­prove fraud de­tec­tion?

AI can help us to bet­ter ver­ify peo­ple’s iden­ti­ties and pre­vent fraud. In 2017, we ac­quired cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm, Nu­data, which is a global leader in be­havioural bio­met­rics. Through its cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy, we can go be­yond static bio­met­ric in­ter­ac­tions such as a sin­gle finger­print, and take ad­van­tage of the field of be­havioural and per­sis­tent bio­met­rics, which in­cludes the way a per­son in­ter­acts with a de­vice, how they type in pass­words, how they hold the de­vice, whether it’s usu­ally in their right hand or left hand, and so forth. The way a bot would type in a pass­word is very dif­fer­ent from how you or I would do it. With its AI, Nu­data can flag ab­nor­mal uses of de­vices based on past ex­pe­ri­ence. Trans­ac­tions that are as­sessed to be sus­pi­cious are re­ported to banks,

“We see our­selves as a con­nec­tor sup­port­ing the shared vi­sion of in­clu­sive growth and ur­ban­i­sa­tion”

mer­chants or other rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers, who can then eval­u­ate the risk in real time and al­low or deny them. We also have a com­pre­hen­sive de­ci­sion and fraud de­tec­tion ser­vice called Mas­ter­card De­ci­sion In­tel­li­gence that utilises AI and is used by many of our bank­ing part­ners. The smart tech­nol­ogy looks at how a spe­cific ac­count is used over time, and ac­count in­for­ma­tion such as lo­ca­tion, mer­chant, time of day and type of pur­chase made to de­tect nor­mal and ab­nor­mal spend­ing be­hav­iours. When you need to an­a­lyse more than 140,000 trans­ac­tions ev­ery minute, and work through con­sumer be­havioural his­tory and a large amount of his­tor­i­cal fraud data to pro­vide an as­sess­ment on a trans­ac­tion, you need the power of AI.

Why did Mas­ter­card also de­cide to ven­ture into smart mo­bil­ity?

We be­lieve that the key to de­vel­op­ing live­able, sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive cities is com­bin­ing data-driven in­sights with in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy. In 2014, we worked closely with Trans­port for Lon­don to roll out the ac­cep­tance of con­tact­less pay­ments across all modes of trans­port. This part­ner­ship helped make travel sim­pler: com­muters use a prod­uct that they al­ready have in their pocket (a con­tact­less-en­abled Mas­ter­card or Mae­stro card, or smart de­vice) and thus need less time to get through the sta­tion to their trains. Trans­port au­thor­i­ties can also cut the cost of col­lect­ing fares. Through this ini­tia­tive, Lon­don has saved an es­ti­mated £100m a year. We’ve been test­ing a sim­i­lar fare pay­ment sys­tem for pub­lic trans­port in Sin­ga­pore since 2017 with the Land Trans­port Au­thor­ity (LTA), and the user par­tic­i­pa­tion has been en­cour­ag­ing. (LTA has since ex­panded this pi­lot to in­clude Visa and Nets cards.) We are also work­ing with more than 100 cities world­wide to de­sign ef­fi­cient and in­tu­itive spa­ces by in­te­grat­ing in­ter­op­er­a­ble dig­i­tal pay­ments into a city’s core trans­port in­fra­struc­ture.

What is next for Mas­ter­card?

We see our­selves as a con­nec­tor sup­port­ing the shared vi­sion of in­clu­sive growth and ur­ban­i­sa­tion. We of­fer the con­nec­tiv­ity of in­for­ma­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and in­no­va­tion to make all pay­ment flows more ef­fi­cient, thus help­ing to build more in­clu­sive cities. We want to con­tinue to help in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses to thrive and grow us­ing our tech­nol­ogy, in­sights and ex­per­tise. As a truly global net­work, we can lever­age th­ese same as­sets to sup­port gov­ern­ments and economies too.

TRANS­AC­TIONAL CON­SID­ER­A­TIONS New tech­nol­ogy makes use of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to de­tect fraud more ef­fec­tively. In ad­di­tion, more ef­fi­cient pay­ments tech­nol­ogy can help to foster the growth of more in­clu­sive cities

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