Interview with Mastercard's Ann Cairns on creating financial safety and driving diversity

Wednesday 25 November 2020 08:52 CET | Editor: Mirela Ciobanu | Interview

A few weeks have passed since the virtual edition of PayTechWomenLive and we sat with Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chair, Mastercard to learn about means of creating financial safety, driving diversity, and pursuing career opportunities in challenging times

Ann, you have such a vast professional experience in the financial sector. How does your professional background tie into the topics discussed at PayTechWomenLive?

The key topics of the day are how women really climb the career ladder and how they deal with things such as the pandemic whilst coping with both a job and childcare. In my experience you need to pace your career and choose what’s right for you at any point in time. Don’t step out of a successful career in your 30s – stay focused and connected even if you do take some time off, because remember that you probably have another 25 years of working life in which to be successful.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to the position you occupy within Mastercard?

I love the fact that I can connect my day job with other activities which really focus on developing women in the workplace, enhancing businesses through broader ethnicity, and creating products and services for the SHEconomy. I am talking about my global Chair position in the 30% Club and the Financial Alliance for Women. I think working for Mastercard, a global company that really understands the need for diversity and inclusion, which has a very strong internal and external platform based on ‘decency’, is a great place to lead by example and speak with authority on these subjects.

The Covid-19 pandemic has mostly affected vulnerable categories such as SMEs, women entrepreneurs, seniors etc. How can the payments industry solve some of their pain points?

There’s so much the payments industry can do to help people at this current time. One of the main things in terms of helping businesses is to really provide services which allow them to sell their products online, because the whole world has gone digital. With that comes the risk of cyber security which is something Mastercard knows all about as we provide tools which protect organisations from attack. We also provide tools that protect against fraud and we give the global reach that many businesses need to buy and sell goods around the world. In terms of reaching the vulnerable, our payment platforms are being used by many Governments, local Governments and NGO’s to disperse social payments and benefits. We are applying the latest technology to identify people through biometrics and digital means, to ensure that and money reaches the people who need it most.

I often say that you need to included people to innovate, but you also need to innovate to include. It’s not just the payment world we play in, in some cases our tech has been used by Gavi to track children being vaccinated. You can see that we live in an interconnected world and solutions which work for finance can also be used for health and well-being.

What are your thoughts on how Wnet and the industry can move the needle with regards to diversity and inclusion?

There are so many practical things you can do today. I think every business can ask itself the question, what do we do for our people, our markets and society as a whole? Networks like Wnet that encompass many businesses can share best practices and think about things like supply chains and how to manage them effectively and fairly. Research is important too, so everyone can see how the business world is performing. Calling our bias, with respect to gender or other factors is also an important role, especially as we move into the AI age. We can’t afford to have the data of the old world determining our future. We can’t have search engines changing she is a doctor into he is a doctor. We are all custodians of the future and we need to use our collective knowledge to build the best possible future for our children and theirs.

If you were to give some advice to a younger self, what advice would you give?

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Sometimes it is very hard to do. But in my experience people rarely say no. So, don’t take the first thing that comes along. Wait for that thing which makes you feel excited and passionate. At the same time avoid being ‘a lady in waiting’.  If you feel you are being side-lined and think the thing you want most is beyond your reach, try and go for it a different way. I am a Capricorn and goats often have difficult and rocky journeys to the top, but they usually get there by any number of paths.

About Ann Cairns

In her role as vice chairman, Ann represents Mastercard around the world, focusing on inclusion, diversity, and innovation. She plays the important role of senior ambassador and executive leader with a global remit and serves on the company’s management committee.

Prior to her appointment, Ann was president of International Markets responsible for the management of all customer-related activities in over 200 countries around the world. In this role, she focused on building sustainable, strong growth rates across both mature and emerging markets.

Prior to joining Mastercard in August 2011, Ann was head of the Financial Services Group with Alvarez & Marsal in London, where she led the European team managing Lehman Brothers Holdings International through the Chapter 11 process. In addition, she helped restructure banks across Europe including Ireland & Iceland.

Ann has also held senior positions within many global organisations including a tenure as CEO, Transaction Banking at ABN-AMRO, and 15 years in senior operational positions at Citigroup.

About Mastercard

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments, and businesses realise their greatest potential. Our decency quotient, or DQ, drives our culture and everything we do inside and outside of our company. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.  

In case you missed key themes discussed during Wnet’s PayTechWomenLive event, check out Linda Perry, Wnet Co-Founder, conference summary here.


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Keywords: diversity, covid, financial inclusion, MasterCard, payments, digitalisation, gender gap, wnet, SMEs
Categories: Banking & Fintech | Payments General
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Banking & Fintech