Mastercard takes on digitalisation trend with new experience centre

It hopes to tailor solutions for fintech startups and banks through collaborations and partnerships.

PAYMENTS network Mastercard unveils its experience centre this month for the Singapore FinTech Festival, a space for clients and partners to collaborate for idea generation, co-creation of new products and for the presentation of solutions.

The Mastercard Experience Centre (MEC) was launched to complement its Accelerate programme, which houses different platforms - Start Path, Fintech Express, Engage and Developers - that can be customised to suit each fintech's needs. This, Mastercard said, can help fintechs accelerate growth and scale up.

"The startups already are so successful at inventing new technologies and thinking about problems in a different and new light," said Tobias Puehse, vice-president of innovation management at Mastercard Labs. "That is where they bring so much new value."

Mastercard, on the other hand, he said, can bring the "expertise, scale and commercial access" to the table, and aims to be the fabric that connects across consumers, fintech startups and financial institutions in the ecosystem.

This way, fintech startups can leverage Mastercard's network to reach out to consumers worldwide, scale up and work with the payments company to create tailored solutions for their services.

"We don't think of the MEC as a one-size-fits-all approach," said Mr Puehse, adding that different fintech startups have their own objectives and business models. That is why, he said, the network wants to be able to tailor its services to the different needs of startups.

For example, with Mastercard Engage, fintech startups can find and work with technology partners who are already vetted by the payments network to create fintech solutions that are integrated into different hardware-centric products such as wearables, tokens or NFC wallets.

In another vein, a bank could also come to the MEC wanting to rethink ways to improve its customer service or create a new experience for its users. Here, Mr Puehse added, the network could tap its expertise across different platforms in the Mastercard Accelerate programme to create a customised solution for them.

"We are going to bring together the ingredients to create new use cases together with the fintech startups and the banks," the vice-president of innovation management said, adding that up to 70 per cent of fintechs focus on engagement, efficiency, inclusion and new technologies, while only 30 per cent are predominantly payment-oriented.

This is why, he added, through the MEC, different stakeholders in the ecosystem can come together to build on one another's strengths and collaborate on products that can create value for consumers.

"Consumers today have so much choice," said Mr Puehse, adding that the ones that will "ultimately win and sustain" are the ones that really solve the problems of consumers.

In the MEC, he said, there is a research lab that analyses consumer behaviour through focus group discussions, feedback and research.

"That is where we feel a lot of the new ideas will come from," he said, when people participate through the programmes in the MEC, exchanging ideas and creating new innovations.

This way, those in the MEC will be able to touch base with consumers and learn what works for them, creating services and products that benefit consumers.

"I think that is why we continue to invest and accelerate a lot of these aspects, because we need to have that change," he said.

Besides consumers, Mastercard and the fintech ecosystem can benefit too. With a global shift towards digitalisation, the payments network hopes its payments technology will ultimately be at the frontier of these digital transactions and the fintech revolution.

"However, it is not purely about growth for Mastercard," Mr Puehse was quick to add.

"It is also about achieving the right objectives for society, and to do well while doing good," he said.

"When you think about all that new customer reality, it really comes back to the question of how do we accelerate to meet those expectations that can raise the bar for ourselves," he said.

"I think that is really the trust that we have earned and that we continue to focus on to create, and we will not compromise that trust for anything."