We may earn a commission from links on this page.

For more than half a century, Mastercard has been a titan of the payment-processing industry, but in the past few years the industry itself has changed drastically thanks to the explosive growth of e-wallet transactions, which have all but replaced the use of cash in consumer purchases. To understand how a company as big as Mastercard approaches R+D in the midst of such rapid market disruption, Quartz CEO Zach Seward spoke with its chief product officer Craig Vosburg.

Vosburg explained that while the advent of emerging technologies like e-wallets, blockchain, and 5G may seem rapid, Mastercard picks up on these trends earlier and tracks them for longer; if one seems both promising and relevant, its R+D team will start experimenting with potential applications and how they might interface with the company’s existing products. 

Vosburg says his head of R+D calls the process “de-risking,” to ensure that any investment in a nascent technology can be scaled up only when it’s been deemed to have a high chance of breaking through — and adding value to Mastercard’s bottom line. This approach, he suggests, can allow companies to stay ahead of trends without endangering the success of their core business.

Read more: The future of cash

Follow Quartz on LinkedIn, Facebook, or YouTube to learn from CEO Zach Seward and other leaders working to improve their slice of the business world, airing live across all three platforms every other Tuesday at 11 am ET.