How Mastercard invests in domestic and cross-border payments

Darrell MacMullin, SVP Products and Platforms at Mastercard in Canada, talks to us about the pace of change within disbursements and cross-border payments

When we dial in virtually to speak with Darrell MacMullin, Senior Vice President for Products and Platforms at Mastercard in Canada, it’s a bad internet day. He’s just got off the phone with his telecom provider and is already analysing the customer service he received. “I am definitely UX-obsessed,” he admits. 

MacMullin is constantly evaluating the experiences he receives as a user, and applying those learnings to his role leading the product and platform development for the company’s operations in Canada. “I definitely have a passion for transforming industries, companies and lives through innovative use of technology,” he tells us. 

“Sometimes, it's the simple capabilities that are really good. The people behind them have the persistence to continue driving and reducing the friction that exists in a white space. That could be companies creating digital wallets or building new flows and experiences to provide greater value.”

Despite his admiration for simple and elegant tech solutions, he’s keen to draw a distinction between innovation and iteration. Innovation is genuinely challenging, which makes it all the more worthy when an entrepreneur or pioneer gets it right. Too many fintechs stick with the status quo but try and do it in a new flavour, and that very rarely works out.

Customers expect payments to be almost immediate

Over the last 5-10 years, several macro trends have redefined disbursements and cross-border payments. These include the rise of the gig economy; greater demand for choice in various different payment use-cases; and more exacting expectations from the general public.

Within disbursements, B2B payments tend to be higher in value but lower in frequency, whereas P2P payments tend to be higher in frequency but lower in value. This has a substantial impact on how payments are processed. Electronic fund transfers (EFTs), automated clearing house (ACH) and cheques have historically been the predominant payment methods used for disbursements, and they still are at many B2B levels.

“People’s expectations are on demand for almost everything now,” MacMullin says. Add to this the growing number of migrants and refugees – the UN refugee agency estimates that, at the end of 2022, there were more than 100m people forcibly displaced by events such as persecution, conflict and violence – and the picture becomes complex.

Canada alone welcomes more than 400,000 migrants every year. When they arrive, they expect to be able to move money back home quickly.

“Whether it’s a refund from a health insurance company or a person needing to send money to family back home, they don’t want to wait days for that anymore. The expectation is that it has to happen in near-real time.”

Mastercard investing heavily in payments infrastructure

In order to meet this evolving demand, Mastercard has placed a huge emphasis on its Mastercard Send platform for domestic disbursements and its Mastercard Cross Border services for moving money internationally, both of which facilitate secure, near-real time payment transfers between billions of cards, banks and digital accounts.

Mastercard has also been investing heavily into new payments infrastructure, applications and services. “We've completed acquisitions and integrations of a number of companies and capabilities that give us the ability to reach about 90% of the world's population with Mastercard Cross- Border Services,” MacMullin tells us. “Together, Mastercard Send and Cross-Border Services can support payments to bank accounts, mobile wallets, cash payout locations, and any card type and scheme whether it’s debit, credit or prepaid. The platform enables banks and fintechs to be able to move money to support multiple use cases including remittances, small business and commercial payments.

“Mastercard Cross-Border Services allows its customers to move money seamlessly to over 120+ markets, including to over 50 countries where we connect directly into their real-time payment schemes. Through Cross-Border Services, Mastercard also operates about 12 of the world's largest real-time payment schemes; we're focused on building them to be interoperable, and being able to make it more seamless for cross-border payments to happen.”

Sometimes, this process raises fundamental questions about why we move money in the first place. Many innovators have become so consumed by the race towards immediacy that they lose sight of the initial challenge. “Let’s say you want to send money back home to your mother so she can pay her bills in another country,” MacMullin proffers philosophically. “Well instead of just sending money, what if you could actually just pay the bills for her?”


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