MasterCard Inc. has what it needs to thrive, but its next chief executive says he still has to put the pieces together.
The Purchase, N.Y., company said Monday that Ajay Banga, its president and chief operating officer, will take over as CEO on July 1. Banga, who came to MasterCard from Citigroup Inc. in August, will succeed Robert W. Selander, who is credited with transforming MasterCard from a "me too" player in the payments industry to a formidable contender to archrival Visa Inc.
Banga said developing markets, especially Asia, and emerging payments technologies such as mobile phones will be vital for MasterCard.
"Innovation will be the key to our continued success," Banga said during a conference call from Singapore after the company's board meeting there.
However, he said he does not expect "a great deal of change being enacted" under his leadership.
Rather, his priority will be building off MasterCard's existing technology and resources to grow in the debit, credit and prepaid card segments.
For example, he cited the product development agreement announced last week with Next Jump Inc., a New York developer of predictive analytics software that helped MasterCard create an online shopping hub for cardholders, and the 2009 acquisition of the payments software provider Orbiscom Ltd.
Banga said he plans to devote "a higher level of effort" to payments, e-commerce and mobile technology, without investing significant amounts of new money.
"We already have that in our repertoire," he said.
Brian Riley, research director for the bank cards service at TowerGroup, said many in the industry expected Banga would take over upon Selander's retirement. Riley called the promotion a "natural progression" for MasterCard.
Selander "leaves as a real success story in the cards business," Riley said. "One of the things that he's done that shows the depth of his management skill is to prepare for his successor. It just appears to be a well-planned succession."
Before joining MasterCard in 2009, Banga spent 13 years at Citigroup, most recently as CEO for the Asia-Pacific region.
Riley said Banga's background, with its strong "international flair," will benefit MasterCard.
MasterCard advanced on several fronts under Selander, gaining significant share in the debit, credit and prepaid card markets while pushing new technologies surrounding e-commerce and mobile payments, Riley said. "Assembling all these pieces into one ecosystem is what really will make it effective," he said.
A crucial challenge for Banga will be expanding MasterCard's debit business, Riley said. He said Visa had debit card transaction volume of $2.48 billion last year, to MasterCard's $814 million.
But MasterCard isn't looking to just boost its transaction fee volume from debit payments, Riley said.
Since many banks are developing person-to-person payment applications that would link mobile phones to customers' accounts, increasing MasterCard's profile in the debit market "goes hand in hand" with establishing a successful model around mobile payments, Riley said.
However, having the same impact on MasterCard as Selander did in building the brand globally will not be easy for Banga.
"Ajay's going to have big shoes to fill," said Bill McCracken, chief executive of the financial services research firm Synergistics Research Corp. in Atlanta.
"MasterCard has gone from somewhat of a smaller brand in comparison to Visa when [Selander] took over to a really top competitor to Visa that has much more of an international footprint and really, on every issuer deal, competes toe to toe with Visa."
Selander "has been a savior for the brand and for the association," McCracken added. "That's a tougher situation to come into."
McCracken said MasterCard has gained a reputation for innovation, such as MasterCard MarketPlace. The online shopping site uses analytics software to tailor offers from retailers to shoppers based on defined preferences and past purchasing data.
"What I find encouraging is that MasterCard is trying something different," McCracken said. "MasterCard has in many ways been a little bit smaller, a little bit more nimble and maybe a little bit more willing to move quickly and try different things. I think Ajay has to continue that."
Selander, 59, joined MasterCard in 1994 and became CEO in 1997. He will become executive vice chairman and remain on MasterCard's board until he retires at yearend, the company said. Banga was also named a director, starting immediately.
Banga's "deep background in financial services" and "experience working in numerous geographies have prepared him well for this role," Selander said during the conference call with reporters.
Selander also praised Banga, 50, for his "thoughtful and energetic" management style.
While running Citi's Asian operations, Banga oversaw institutional banking, alternative investments, wealth management, consumer banking and credit cards in the region.
He also held senior management roles with Citi in the United States, Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.
Had MasterCard not offered the CEO position to Banga by June 30, he would have been able to quit with "good reason," meaning he would be entitled to the remainder of his base salary he had earned, payment of accrued but unused vacation time, a pro-rata portion of the company's annual incentive bonus as of his termination date, along with severance pay for two years, according to his employment agreement with the company.
According to his agreement, Banga was hired at an annual base salary of $800,000.