The man with a plan

Mak­ing a mean­ing­ful im­pact on so­ci­ety is part of Master­card’s strat­egy for the fu­ture

Arabian Business English - - SPOTLIGHT -

“Ap­ple is not a fruit,

Ama­zon is not a river, and Master­card is not a credit card com­pany,” Michael Fro­man tells Ara­bian Busi­ness dur­ing an in­ter­view as the com­pany an­nounced its part­ner­ship with Gavi, the Vac­cine Al­liance, to en­sure more chil­dren from the world’s poor­est coun­tries are able to ben­e­fit from life-sav­ing im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­grammes. The vice chair­man and pres­i­dent of Strate­gic Growth at Master­card stresses this be­cause the com­pany, which op­er­ates the world’s fastest pay­ments pro­cess­ing net­work, has been help­ing level the play­ing field to make the world more fi­nan­cially and dig­i­tally in­clu­sive for nearly a decade. From of­fer­ing dig­i­tal plat­forms that em­power farm­ers to buy, sell and re­ceive pay­ments for agri­cul­tural goods via their fea­ture phones, to re­plac­ing pa­per voucher sys­tems in hu­man­i­tar­ian crises with pre­loaded dig­i­tal cards for food and sup­plies, to of­fer­ing tools to help peo­ple man­age in­come streams and plan for their fu­ture – the com­pany has made a global com­mit­ment to con­nect 500 mil­lion peo­ple to for­mal fi­nan­cial ser­vices through the use of pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ships with gov­ern­ments, the pri­vate sec­tor and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions. Master­card’s lat­est ini­tia­tive with Gavi en­ables min­istries of health and au­tho­rised health work­ers in Gavi-sup­ported coun­tries across Africa, Asia and Latin Amer­ica to pro­vide a card with a dig­i­tal im­mu­ni­sa­tion record to each par­tic­i­pat­ing child’s care­giver. In many de­vel­op­ing na­tions, com­mon bar­ri­ers in­clude a lack of in­for­ma­tion about a child’s im­mu­ni­sa­tion record and lim­ited means by which to re­mind care­givers about fol­low-ups. With two bil­lion adults world­wide liv­ing with­out ac­cess to main­stream fi­nan­cial tools and ser­vices, Master­card sees an ur­gent need to speed up the cre­ation of com­mer­cially vi­able solutions for the seg­ment. “This whole area of the base of the pyra­mid is of great in­ter­est to us,” Fro­man says.Al­though he calls it the “most chal­leng­ing new cus­tomer seg­ment”, the ex­ec­u­tive says mak­ing mean­ing­ful im­pact is also part of its long-term growth strat­egy

“This would help women who are now get­ting paid in cash and have to fight hard to keep that cash safe”

be­cause for mar­kets to de­pend on just phi­lan­thropy, cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity or for­eign aid isn’t scal­able. Be­ing fi­nan­cially in­clu­sive cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment in which the com­pany will suc­ceed, Fro­man adds, al­though the move isn’t about max­imis­ing profit in the short-to-medium term. Long term, how­ever, the in­clu­sive­ness is ex­pected to drive cre­ation of new mer­chant net­works. He ex­plains: “We thrive when economies thrive. Economies are health­ier when the growth is in­clu­sive. (When) you bring more peo­ple into the sys­tem, you’re go­ing to have more stable, more in­clu­sive economies. We’re also on this jour­ney, in part, to demon­strate that we can have com­mer­cially sus­tain­able so­cial im­pact.” Master­card is also cur­rently work­ing with some com­pa­nies in Africa to dig­i­talise the pay­roll of low-wage work­ers in labour in­ten­sive in­dus­tries, a ma­jor­ity of which are women. “This would help women who are now get­ting paid in cash and have to fight hard to keep that cash safe,” Fro­man says. Master­card’s well-thought out ini­tia­tives are no sur­prise as its leader, Pres­i­dent and CEO Ajay Banga has been a vo­cal pro­po­nent of busi­ness as a force for good. Fro­man adds that Banga, who was hon­oured with the United Na­tions World Food Pro­gramme ‘Hunger Hero Award’ at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos last year, is beloved for in­spir­ing his teams with the story of a woman he met in Soweto, South Africa, af­ter in­tro­duc­ing the South African So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency Debit Master­card. “(She) used to get robbed all the time when she got her money in cash from the govern­ment and now feels that she’s get­ting paid safely and se­curely,” Fro­man says. “We have a phrase we talk a lot about in­side our com­pany about do­ing well by do­ing good. When the var­i­ous parts come to­gether, you can re­ally see how some­body’s life at the base of the pyra­mid is fun­da­men­tally trans­formed, and that’s what this is re­ally about.”

Michael Fro­man, vice chair­man and pres­i­dent of Strate­gic Growth at Master­card

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