'Mastercard Conversations’ launches with discussion of innovation during COVID

March 30, 2021 | By Maggie Sieger

The inaugural episode of “Mastercard Conversations” kicked off Tuesday with a discussion on business, innovation and leadership in the COVID era. This fireside chat series will feature business leaders who are disrupting the present and shaping the future.

Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach sat down with Arvind Krishna, chairman and CEO of IBM, and Margaret Keane, executive chair of Synchrony.


Mastercard Conversations

In the first episode, we hear from Arvind Krishna, President and CEO of IBM, and Margaret Keane, Chair of Synchrony, key contributors to Mastercard’s second annual Become research report on global innovation.

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The second annual Become Index was released today. The Mastercard-sponsored research report revealed a few key areas where the pandemic accelerated innovation. If you could invest only in one area — which would you pick?

Arvind Krishna: I would say strategic investment. My strategic investments for IBM are in the areas of hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, because there is so much more productivity and so much more of a better experience that our customers can offer to their end users.

Margaret Keane: We’re really focused on the digital aspect. We're spending a lot of time to connect mobile devices and really make sure both from a digital experience and information experience — AI — we're making that [mobile shopping] experience very seamless. Customers are asking for that more and more. That's something that we've spent a lot of time in the past year and we'll continue doing that.

When you think about innovation, how did it change last year?

Margaret Keane: All of a sudden, there was a big urgency for things like contactless payments. It accelerated innovation tremendously. We had to spend a lot of time helping some of our partners digitize. It's not just about the technology. It's about innovating processes and helping partners accelerate the changes they need to make in order to meet the needs of their customers.

What do you think the future of work holds? Which changes related to the pandemic are here to stay? Which are temporary?

Arvind Krishna: Remote work. That actually is an enabler of productivity. Now, you can bring the best people globally onto a given project, as opposed to having to worry about only those who could physically be there. But I am not convinced that remote work is going to be the way of the future for everyone. I think humans love to get together. I think the creative side of it often requires being together. That doesn't mean that we need to be in the office 40, 50 or 60 hours a week. So, I think it will become a hybrid.

Michael Miebach: I think the broader questions are: What are you going to do in the office when you're there? [What] happens when you press the off button on Zoom? Because the real conversation happens in the five minutes thereafter: Whoa, what did you think? There are aspects of hybrid that we need to understand and then be quite careful … Three months from now, I think we're going to have a lot better line of sight and hopefully, some answers.

Maggie Sieger, Contributor