MasterCard’s Secret to Big Data Monetization Might Surprise You

By Pete Rizzo, Editor (@pete_rizzo_)

“We feel India is a very important market for MasterCard, rich in analytics talent and expertise that will assist us in delivering big data solutions on broader scale, globally.”

Kevin Stanton, the president of MasterCard Advisors, issued this statement in an August 22 press release announcing the launch of his company’s new Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence in India. The move marks MasterCard’s latest attempt to expand its big data analytics footprint while strengthening its position in a key market.

MasterCard’s reasons for the new launch go beyond the Indian market. If MasterCard is able to succeed in its ambitions, its latest big data center will help financial institutions and merchants worldwide address complex business challenges. Gary Kearns, executive vice president of information services for MasterCard Advisors, told that one of the center’s key missions is to monetize its data and better deliver “unique solutions” and “actionable insights.”

“We recognized the growing need for businesses – whether small or large – to more effectively leverage big data and analytics to help them solve their most pressing business challenges, such as enhancing customer acquisition and loyalty,” Kearns told

The need Kearns addresses is real. In 2011, research from IBM indicated that 45 percent of top-performing organizations use data to guide their future strategies, and 53 percent use insights to guide day-to-day operations.

How will MasterCard’s new Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence address this need, and how does it expect data to shape payments in the years to come? spoke to Kearns to find out. MasterCard recently announced the launch of an Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence in India. Can you give us an overview of the center and talk about what it’s designed to do?

Gary Kearns: The Center of Excellence is an extension of the MasterCard Advisors’ Advanced Analytics group, which is headquartered in New York. The center will build on the success we’ve already established around our proprietary processes and expert analysis of global spending trends, which is a key differentiator for MasterCard, and it will help drive greater innovation and scale across our organization.

We have recruited highly qualified analytics talent with broad payments industry, retail and media experience to provide hands-on support for product development and custom analytics with clients anywhere in the world. MasterCard Advisors has been a global leader in big data technology, analytics and expertise for over 10 years, but their expertise will enable us to deliver big data solutions on an even broader scale, globally.

What is the driving force behind your decision to choose India as the country of choice for this endeavor?

India is a very important market for MasterCard and rich in analytics talent. We chose to locate the Center of Excellence in India to capitalize on their well-established expertise in analytics and provide world-class data insights to help our global customers make sense of big data.

In addition, we have a great partner based in India – the data analytics firm, Mu Sigma. We’ve been working with them since the beginning of the year and our partnership with them has allowed us to expand our own big data analytics work and enable faster innovation for our clients. Mu Sigma has extensive experience beyond the payments business, so they are the perfect complement to our deep payments expertise.

How will organizations around the world benefit from MasterCard’s Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence?

We identify and interpret spending trends based on billions of anonymous transactions processed by MasterCard every year, and we then apply our expert analytics in order to deliver actionable insights to our customers.

It’s no secret that the big data analytics market is rapidly growing as companies seek real-time insight that allows them to better connect with their consumers through things like relevant products, offers and new services. In working with financial institutions, merchants, governments and other companies around the world, we recognized the growing need for businesses – whether small or large – to more effectively leverage big data and analytics to help them solve their most pressing business challenges, such as enhancing customer acquisition and loyalty. That’s why we decided to establish the Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence – to provide innovative solutions that meet our growing global customers’ needs.

How has the evolution of big data changed the way you currently engage with your customers?

Our business is driven by the idea that big data can be a game-changer for any business that is seeking to innovate, cut costs, attract new customers or otherwise grow their organization. But, the key is, you have to know where to look. More and more, companies are turning to MasterCard Advisors to learn how, by effectively tapping into transaction data insights, they can create a 360-degree view of spend across channels to help them better understand and market to their customers.

We’ve been able to deliver unique solutions to our customers by leveraging our team of expert analysts, who are skilled in looking at data in a whole new way to pinpoint actionable insights that drive the most impact for our customers.

What role do you envision big data will play within the payments ecosystem three-to-five years from now?

In some respects, big data is a still a bit of a novelty because organizations are still trying to figure out the best way to harness it. I like to say that people are swimming in data, but they’re still thirsty. Over the next three-to-five years, I think we’ll begin to see a movement toward making big data more consumable and actionable, so that organizations can apply it in ways that are meaningful.

It’s about finding the right recipe for your needs to help you make the best business decisions. Once the right recipe is defined for the business, data-driven decision-making will become completely ingrained in how they operate.

MasterCard Advisors has been a well-recognized name in the field of analytics for over a decade. As you identify and interpret spending trends derived from the billions of transactions processed by MasterCard every year, what are the top spending trends you have observed in the past year, and what do you expect for the year to come?

The overarching theme we’ve seen this year has been that consumers are “cautiously optimistic” about the economy and that’s been reflected in their spending trends. Retail sales have been healthy, particularly in the past few months – spending was up 4.4 percent in July, according to our monthly SpendingPulse report.  

But, SpendingPulse also shows that consumers are continuing to focus on needs versus wants and trying to find the best value for their money. We expect to see that trend continue into the holidays and the months to come. One bright spot has been online shopping, which has been posting double-digit gains over last year.

Gary Kearns is Executive Vice President of Information Services for MasterCard Advisors. He has global responsibility for leading efforts to directly monetize differentiated data assets, drive growth within core target areas and identify new revenue opportunities in emerging segments at MasterCard. MasterCard data assets encompass 1.9 billion cards representing 30 million merchants and 80 billion transactions. Prior to joining MasterCard, Gary spent five years as president, Decision Analytics North America at Experian. In that capacity, he was responsible for leading B2B software and predictive analytics businesses serving financial institutions, government agencies, asset managers, retailers, utilities and telecom companies. He also was managing director and global leader for Risk Solutions at Standard & Poor’s. Prior to that, Gary spent twenty years in the banking industry including positions as Deputy CEO and Senior Lending Officer at Bank Austria Creditanstalt USA and Executive Vice President at FleetBoston Financial Corp. Gary holds a B.S. in International Finance from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He also attended the Advanced Management Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.