MasterCard’s Martina Hund-Mejean

Though awash in cash, the company is determined to avoid complacency and places an ultra-high priority on forward-looking strategy, the CFO says.

What else is MasterCard doing to differentiate itself from its competitors?

We differentiate ourselves in three main areas. One, we can custom-tailor our products to fit a partner’s particular need. For example, Lufthansa wants to make sure its frequent flyers are really using their credit cards and are having a unique experience, like going faster through security. We made a card for them to do that. We placed a PayPass feature on the cards so that users can make last-minute purchases at the airport. Number two, we are truly global, with about 50 percent of our revenues generated outside the United States. If we develop a new product in one part of the world, we can deploy it in other parts of the world. Our third unique competency is our professional-services arm, MasterCard Advisors. Through that group we provide information, consulting, and outsourcing services to our customers, the banks.

Will MasterCard’s future business model look entirely different?

Unlike many other industries, the global payments industry is still in its infancy. Cash and checks are still the predominant forms of payment in many global economies, and this translates into tremendous opportunities for us to grow.

Given all the areas you have to be involved in at MasterCard, is there one that you find especially exciting?

I have a passion for strategy. Whichever proposition we’re looking at, I put it in the context of “What does it mean for MasterCard?” — not only today, but years from now. I’m constantly focused on, What are we missing? What are we not thinking about? What is it that we don’t know and how do we learn about it?

How do you figure out what you don’t know?

From a finance perspective, you have to do a number of things. First, be very connected to the businesspeople in the company and be on top of where the business is moving or can move to. Having a finance group that is well connected and embedded in the business is key to this. Second, be connected to other external sources that provide objective input to shape the company’s strategy. And third, engage in a constant debate on possible scenarios and prepare the company to either take advantage of those or make defensive moves.

What skills do you think an aspiring CFO needs most?

CFOs can come from various backgrounds. They’ll need to develop expertise in areas like financial planning and analysis. It helps if you have been the controller of a unit, run a subsidiary, and have M&A, tax, and audit experience. By growing up through the General Motors treasurer’s office, I was fortunate to get experience in most of those areas.

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