MasterCard names ex-Citi exec Banga as CEO

By Maria Aspan

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – MasterCard Inc (MA.N: ) named Chief Operating Officer Ajay Banga as chief executive officer, signaling the increasing importance of emerging markets to the credit and debit card company.

Banga, 50, will take charge in July, replacing retiring CEO Robert Selander, the company said on Monday. He was widely expected to take the reins at the company.

Banga oversaw Citigroup Inc’s (C.N: ) Asia Pacific businesses before joining MasterCard last year. In a call with reporters on Monday, he identified Asia, India and Brazil, among other emerging markets, as priorities in his plans to increase the company’s business.

MasterCard will “work very hard to… win in those markets,” he said on a conference call with reporters Monday morning.

“We want to ensure that our global strategy thinks through the implications of the opportunities in these countries, and to do that you need talented people on the ground, which we have, (and) we need to empower them, which we are doing,” he said.

Banga said he also plans to increase MasterCard’s focus on innovation in emerging technologies, including e-commerce and mobile payments.

Selander will remain MasterCard’s executive vice chairman and retain his seat on the board until he retires at the end of the year, the company said. Banga has joined the board, effective immediately.

Selander, 59, became CEO in March 1997 and oversaw MasterCard’s high-profile initial public offering in 2006.

Banga spent 13 years at Citigroup, including a stint as CEO of its international global consumer group, with responsibility for the company’s brand and marketing work.

He led a major reorganization of Citigroup’s Asian operations in 2008 that gave regional heads increased authority across the bank’s sprawling product lines.

“The biggest single impact he could have is an emphasis on high-growth international markets — Brazil, India, China — where the big opportunities are for the MasterCard brand,” said former MasterCard executive Philip J. Philliou.

Those countries are “still at the relatively nascent stage for electronic payments, and that’s where the growth’s going to come,” said Philliou, who is now a partner in Philliou Selwanes Partners LLC, a consulting firm to banks and payments companies.

Philliou cited Banga’s Indian nationality and experience managing Citi’s operations in the Asia-Pacific region as advantages.

Banga received about $10 million in compensation in 2008 from Citigroup, making him one of the firm’s highest paid executives that year.

Prior to joining Citi in 1996, he worked at Nestle (NESN.VX: ) and PepsiCo (PEP.N: ).

Banga, who graduated from Delhi University and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, is one of a growing group of South Asians to lead major U.S.-based companies, including Pepsi and Citigroup.

Banga’s former boss at Citigroup, Vikram Pandit, was traveling and unavailable for comment, Citigroup spokeswoman Shannon Bell said. Banga was one of a series high-profile departures from Citigroup last year, after Pandit was named CEO.

When Banga joined MasterCard last summer, the terms of his contract included the right to leave the company with his upfront compensation intact, including a $4.2 million sign-on bonus, if he was not named CEO by June 30, 2010.

Shares of MasterCard, which reports first-quarter earnings on May 4, were up 0.3 percent at $259.64 in early afternoon trading. As of Friday’s close, the stock had gained 1.1 percent since the start of the year, about in line with the sector as measured by the Standard & Poor’s 1500 Data Processing & Outsourcing Services Sub-Industry Index.

(Reporting by Maria Aspan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tim Dobbyn)

MasterCard names ex-Citi exec Banga as CEO