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Watch: Mastercard CPO Craig Vosburg on taking a better tack to emerging tech

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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. 

[R&D] needs to be done with a clear intent … Mastercard’s not going to get into the rocket-launching business. Those kinds of moonshots aren’t for us, but there are some interesting technologies that could have a really significant impact 10, 15, 20 years down the road.

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

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