The wit and wisdom of Mastercard’s Ajay Banga

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Happy Friday.

Former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga (now executive chairman) met with the Fortune CONNECT fellows yesterday and offered a selection of wit and wisdom that’s worth sharing before the weekend begins.

On success:

Life is 50% luck. The other 50% is what you do with it when it is passing by. Do you grab it and seize it and get on the train for a great ride, or do you let it go by?”

On his leadership mentors:

“Watching my dad when he was a general in the (Indian) Army, he used to pay the same level of interest to our driver and the security guard at the gate that he did to a visiting colleague.”

On leadership:

“I actually believe that humility and humor are great assets to have as a leader…If you come into the prospect of leadership as a privilege you were granted, not as a birthright, it is easier to embrace the idea of humility and humor as your companions.”

On whether his appearance has affected his career path (Banga is a Sikh, who wears a turban and full beard):

“Never let your looks get in the way of your story.”

On the business lessons of Lord of the Rings:

“If you just sit in your castle (when the hordes are attacking), and you first throw rocks at them, then you shoot arrows, and then you throw oil over the edge, sooner or later there are more of them than you, they will breach your wall, they will cross your moat, and they will get into your home. The only way for you to stay alive is to move the castle around, move the moat around, and create the ability to be nimble and agile yourself.”

On crypto currencies:

“Central bank digital currencies are really interesting. Stablecoins a little less so. Bitcoin, not really. “

On “fixing” capitalism:

“I dislike words like stakeholder capitalism…. It feels like attaching a good word in front of capitalism makes the bad word become better. My problem with that is you are positioning capitalism as a bad word…I argue capitalism has done really well in the last 40-50  years in terms of growth in the world economy, reduction of poverty….(But) capitalism unfettered, left only to capitalists, run by people who are the biggest beneficiaries, is not the right way to go. You need checks and balances. The checks and balances went missing for a while.”

News below. And for more information on Fortune CONNECT, go here:

Alan Murray


Big Tech grilling

The CEOs of Facebook, Alphabet and Twitter faced U.S. lawmakers and their criticism yesterday. Fortune's Danielle Abril breaks down how the session went: "The executives defended themselves, as they have in previous Congressional hearings, by citing their work to combat hate speech and COVID-19 falsehoods. But this time, several House members pushed back and attacked them for failing to police their sites and prevent real-world harm." Fortune

China relations

Here's the latest on deteriorating relations between China and the West. China has sanctioned a bunch of lawmakers (and a lawyer and an academic) in the U.K. over their criticism of its human rights abuses, particularly in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, Xinjiang cotton has become a burning issue in the fashion world: Hugo Boss has now said it will continue using it, despite having previously denied using it, and H&M's Chinese stores have vanished from Apple Maps and Baidu Maps in the country, after an old company statement about forced labor in Xinjiang was unearthed. Fortune

Still stuck

With the skyscraper-sized Ever Given still blocking the Suez Canal, freight companies are left with little choice but to take the long way round Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope (which is lovely this time of year—Capetonian editor). An estimated $400 million in goods is being blocked each hour. Shipping rates are surging and, by current estimates, it will take at least until Wednesday to dislodge the vessel. Bloomberg

Vaccine cooperation

U.S. President Joe Biden and his European counterparts yesterday agreed to cooperate on removing bottlenecks in vaccine production, according to Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Biden made an unusual appearance at an EU Council meeting between the bloc's leaders, in a gesture that Chancellor Angela Merkel described as "very, very important…It meant that we are talking more closely again." RTÉ


Infrastructure plea

America badly needs an infrastructure upgrade, argue American Society of Civil Engineers president Jean-Louis Briaud and Building America's Future co-chair Ray LaHood in this piece for Fortune: "When we fail to adequately invest in our infrastructure, we all pay the price. Poor roads and airports mean travel times increase. An aging electric grid and inadequate water distribution make utilities unreliable." Fortune  

Amazon and unions

As this Washington Post article points out, Amazon workers' fight for unionization in the U.S. is taking place in a world that already sees the company coexisting with the unions, notably in Europe. And it's not exactly an easy relationship there. WaPo

Vaccine passports

Members of the European Parliament will fast-track voting on the European Commission's common vaccine passport plan. The Commission wants to have the digital green certificate—confirming vaccination, immunity and testing status—ready by June, and accelerating potential parliamentary approval makes that more likely to happen. Politico

Doughnut economics

Doughnut economics, a Pope-approved model developed by British economist Kate Raworth, is spreading. Amsterdam adopted the framework, which describes the ideal zone for human activity between social and planetary boundaries, a year ago. Brussels followed suit, as have cities in Canada, India, Zambia and elsewhere. CNBC

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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