From card controls to treasury management to new mobile channels, the pace of payments tech innovation-and the number of feisty startups-are accelerating, and MasterCard has opened a new research and development lab in an attempt to make sure it doesn’t fall behind the curve.
Led by Garry Lyons, the former CEO of Orbiscom, the new R&D unit, called MasterCard Labs, will include a team of tech engineers that will drive innovation through a cycle that includes conceptualization, proof of concept, pilot and support of commercialization. MasterCard developed inControl in partnership with Orbiscom, and then later purchased the tech firm in late 2008.
The unit’s employees will be based in existing facilities in Singapore; Westchester County, NY; and St. Louis-which is home to the firm’s global tech and operations. A MasterCard spokesperson says the company is creating a “carved-off function” with a sole mission to drive innovation.
“There are a lot of things going on with payments, which can create a need for a firm to have this type of work,” says Gwenn Bezard, research director at Aite, who says the lab is part of an effort to produce the kind of major tech and product breakthrough that’s eluded the large card firms in recent years.
“The lab is a way of thinking about customer retention from a product perspective,” says Rodney Nelsestuen, a senior research director at TowerGroup. “And with the lab you have a proof of concept, which probably saves [resources] in the long run.”
Products such as inControl, PayPass, MoneySend and the Marketplace online mall are part of MasterCard’s attempt to build an international network of new payments products and technology.