Today marks day one of 2014 National Small Business Week. Since its start in 1963, this week has been dedicated to recognizing the important contributions of U.S. entrepreneurs and small business owners. According to the National Small Business Week official site, “more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three jobs” in the country each year.
This year, MasterCard will celebrate the role of small businesses by using this week to announce a number of new tools, products, and other resources geared specifically to this group. Ed Glassman, Group Executive, Global Commercial Products at MasterCard Worldwide tells us why small businesses are so important to MasterCard.
MasterCard appears to be much more focused on small businesses this year than before. Is this a new direction to your commercial strategy?
EG: We’ve been focused on empowering small businesses through payment solutions and value-added services for many years. We’ve reached the point in our evolution as a company where we have a very robust set of tools for small businesses to help them buy what they need, operate more efficiently and sell their goods and services, and now we’re increasing our focus on getting the word out.
What is the outlook for small businesses in the near feature?
EG: We are seeing signs of growth in the small business segment and are optimistic about the future. Banks are lending more, there are signs of improvement in the US economy and consumer confidence is rebounding, all of which bode well for the small business segment.
What are you hearing from small businesses in terms of what they need to help their businesses run more efficiently?
EG: We recently did a study of small business owners in six countries, including the US, and found out quite a bit about their requirements. Not surprisingly, these businesses told us that they need tools that help them improve cash flow, manage expenses and attract and retain customers – basically take the load off of the “payments and financial” aspects of their lives so that they focus on their customers. So, our role as an enabling network is to provide them with tools that do that. And we think we’re positioned pretty well to do just that—from cards which give small businesses better control over payments, to MasterCard Business Network which allows them to manage expenses and more, to Easy Savings which provides automatic rebates on things they need for their business, to Simplify Commerce which enables them to accept cards quickly and easily.
Access to working capital is a real challenge to small businesses everywhere. How is MasterCard helping to address this issue?
EG: MasterCard has established something we call the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth, which seeks to advance sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. It actually brings thought leaders together to develop solutions for both entrepreneurs and consumers who face challenges accessing credit. We recently partnered with the Corporation for Economic Development on a comprehensive study released last week, Understanding the Financial Vulnerabilities of Microbusiness Owners, which is a great step toward solving this complex problem. Gaining knowledge about the issues and constraints is one step toward resolving them in various countries. And, of course, we continue to work with our bank partners to help educate small businesses on how to access credit.
Another hugely important area of focus for us is developing tools for our bank partners to assist with alternative credit-scoring models. To carry out this initiative, we partnered with the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab (EFL) to launch a cost-effective credit-scoring tool. The goal of this approach to screening and risk evaluation is to open up access to credit for small businesses that might otherwise be declined, allowing them to join a payments network and compete for the same customers as large global retailers.
You mentioned earlier that MasterCard has a portfolio of assets that benefit small businesses. Can you elaborate a bit more and specifically on the cost of accessing these services for the average business owner?
EG: We’re well known for a wide variety MasterCard branded debit and credit cards, which provide small business owners control over their finances, allowing them to manage cash flow and earn extensive business-related benefits and rewards. But what many people don’t know is that we have numerous tools to help business owners achieve their goals. For example, Easy Savings offers free, automatic rebates on products and services essential to many businesses, like gas and shipping.
Our blog, MasterCard Biz, shares much-needed advice on topics like how to improve your business’ credit, how to raise capital and how to attract and retain employees. MasterCard Business Network is an online resource for accomplishing business tasks quickly, like setting controls on employee travel expenses, and it is free for every small business.
You seem to place a lot of emphasis on nurturing the entrepreneur/small business owner and being their partner as they move from launch to maturity. Why have you adopted this philosophy?
EG: We believe the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners is a key driver of the development of any successful economy. For example, in the U.S., 50 percent of individuals, or more than 70 million people, work for or run a small business. And small businesses accounted for 64 percent of the 15 million new jobs created between 1993 and 2001. They are a vital and dynamic sector, and will be an important source of future job creation. We also understand that their needs change as they move from start up to established business and that the tools they need throughout those cycles are different. Our portfolio of solutions reflects those different needs and we think helps them more effectively reach both their financial and personal goals. We think that it is both the right thing to do and smart business to help these businesses grow and thrive.
Specifically, how have you begun to empower small businesses?
EG: We’re empowering small business through several means. First, we create and curate valuable educational tools for them on topics such as accessing capital, taxes, employee benefits, marketing and more on the MasterCard Biz site that I mentioned earlier. The number of small business owners utilizing this content continues to significantly grow each month and repeat usage is high, so we know how much they value the information.
We also give hands on help to small businesses through MasterCard Start Path*, an effort to propel startups toward long-term success by offering guidance, mentorship and engagement opportunities. Initially available across North America and Europe, the program is targeted at startups that are making commerce more efficient, secure, simple and relevant.
Lastly, our small business advocacy efforts through our partnerships with the Corporation for Economic Development, the National Institute for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and our many financial inclusion programs devote significant resources to driving financial inclusion and empowering entrepreneurial growth.
MasterCard will share updates all week on its efforts to support Small Businesses worldwide, so tune into PYMNTS.com for the daily updates.
Group Executive, Global Commercial Products at MasterCard Worldwide
Ed Glassman is group executive, Global Commercial Products at MasterCard Worldwide. In this role, he leads the global development and commercialization of the MasterCard innovative commercial products and solutions that serve small business, mid- and large market organizations and public sector institutions.
Mr. Glassman has held senior management positions in Commercial Banking at Citibank, ABN AMRO and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). His responsibilities have included both business and technology areas including global development and delivery of Treasury Products and Services for clients around the world.
Previously, he served as chief information officer for the GTS businesses at RBS and ABN AMRO. At ABN AMRO, he led the global product organization in its stellar growth, helping the company to become one of the pre-eminent GTS banks in the world.
Prior to ABN AMRO, Mr. Glassman led the Commercial Cards platform at Citibank, later heading Global Product Development for GTS — including the development and deployment of CitiDirect across the world. This market-leading commercial e-banking solution delivered both traditional and new GTS products and services to customers in every geography.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Glassman spent 12 years at IBM consulting on new and emerging technologies and their effect on business strategies and operations. In addition, he also worked in corporate roles at IBM and Pfizer.
Mr. Glassman holds a BS and MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).