Ajay Banga

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Courtesy of MastercardCourtesy of Mastercard
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As one of two giants dominating the realm of credit cards and electronic payments, Mastercard could, in theory, rest on its laurels and watch the money roll in. But such a shortsighted approach would discount the immense technological disruption that’s bubbling beneath the surface and is poised to turn the world of digital commerce on its head in the years to come.

That’s why CEO Ajay Banga has led Mastercard on a buying spree in recent years, with tech-enabled payments startups like Denmark-based Nets—which it acquired for $3.2 billion in August—among the players that the company has snapped up in an attempt to stay ahead of the game. Mastercard is also branching out into new markets via tech-centric initiatives targeting industries like health care and supply chain management.

Thanks in part to Banga’s vision, Mastercard has emerged as a poster child for how legacy players in financial services can embrace and adapt to a rapidly evolving environment. In turn, the company has become a darling of the markets this year, with its stock climbing more than 40% in 2019.

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The Indian-born Banga, who is Sikh, has also been an outspoken proponent of workforce diversity. “For any company, or even for society, to succeed, we have to acknowledge that diversity is a key component in strength,” he told the Economic Times earlier this year. “We have to surround ourselves with people who don’t look the same and have had different experiences.” In recognition of his achievements and advocacy, Banga was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor this past year.

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