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MasterCard’s 2.4 trillion USD Muslim lifestyle man

Participation Finance/Banking (Rushdi Siddiqui) / 14 December 2014
Innovation is key for MasterCard in developing best-in-class Islamic payment products and solutions

An informative conversation with the man behind MasterCard’s burgeoning presence in the Muslim lifestyle market, Safdar Khan, group country manager for Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei; and group head of Islamic payments for Southeast Asia at MasterCard.

How did you become MasterCard’s group country manager for Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei; and group head of Islamic payments for Southeast Asia?

The eight years in MasterCard involved developing, positioning and strengthening relationships with financial institutions and merchants with businesses in South Asia, Middle East and Africa regions. In mid-2013, I was tasked to head operations in Malaysia and Brunei. With the expansion of my role in October this year, I will be responsible for leading MasterCard’s advancement in Islamic payments at a crucial time ahead of the establishment of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.

The card space is very competitive. How do you capture market share or not lose customers by innovation, reducing fees, etc?

Innovation is key for MasterCard in developing best-in-class Islamic payment products and solutions. By conducting in-depth research studies that analyse consumer spending behaviour and characteristics consumers’ value in Islamic payments, MasterCard has built and will continue to expand demand based propositions. For example, Halal-centric holiday packages address every step of a consumer’s vacation from accommodation to their dining experience. MasterCard also looks to provide insights and educate consumers and businesses. For example, MasterCard and CrescentRating, a leader in the development of Halal-friendly travel segment, is developing the first Global Muslim Travel Index for January 2015.

How does MasterCard management view the Muslim lifestyle marketplace?

MasterCard views this segment, expected to reach nearly $2.5 trillion by 2018 (according to the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2013 Report), with great importance. It is a growth market opportunity requiring payment systems/solutions, hence, offering vast opportunities for advancement in the payments industry. The increased attention by Southeast Asian countries towards developing Islamic finance has also provided a platform for MasterCard to offer safe, simple and smart solutions for consumers and businesses.

MasterCard recently launched an Islamic debit card with Tabung Haji. What are the benefits for the Hajis?

The Tabung Haji Debit-i MasterCard, the world’s first non-banking Islamic card, provides the convenience of a globally-accepted MasterCard debit card that gives cardholders access to their Tabung Haji accounts anywhere in the world. The card, which is currently offered specifically to Malaysian Muslims, Tabung Haji depositors, enables access to more than 2.5 million ATMs worldwide. Cardholders can also make purchases at over 38 million merchant locations worldwide, all within the safety, security and convenience of the global MasterCard network.

Your mandate now includes head of Islamic payments. What is your vision and milestones?

One of the notable milestones is the launch of the Maybank Islamic MasterCard Ikhwan Card-i with Maybank Islamic Berhad, the world’s third-largest Islamic bank. The collaboration brought forth the first-of-its-kind credit card which rewards cardholders the opportunity to win all-expenses paid Umrah or travel packages on a weekly basis. MasterCard is also actively supporting and participating in the world’s prestigious Islamic business events, like the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum and the OIC World Biz Exhibition & Conference 2014. Another example is MasterCard’s recent collaboration with Zilzar.com, the world’s first global Muslim lifestyle marketplace platform, whereby MasterCard provided expertise as a payment gateway to enable for smooth and secured cross border commerce. Thus, showcasing MasterCard’s commitment and contribution to the industry’s growth and development. I want emphasise again that MasterCard is committed to enhancing its presence as a frontrunner in Islamic payments through continuously setting new benchmarks, and exploring collaborations with industry organisations.

What are MasterCard’s plans for financial inclusion for non-banked Muslims in the Muslim lifestyle marketplace?

By having access to financial services, individuals are better equipped to participate in the global economy, hence, raising the quality of life of their families. With that, they are able to build stronger futures and contribute positively to economic growth. One of MasterCard’s innovative initiatives is working with several Islamic financial organisations to offer payroll cards to Islamic migrant workers. For many of us, it is encouraging to see Malaysia’s commitment to advancing the financial inclusion agenda with the aim of building a sound, progressive and inclusive financial system. This commitment is further strengthened as Malaysia becomes the permanent home of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion next month and with that, the global centre of financial inclusion. The strategic partnership for the Tabung Haji Debit-i MasterCard will see the Shariah-compliant card being given to Tabung Haji’s large depositor base of 8.4 million-plus people. Thus, it is able to serve Malaysian Muslims and rural customers who may not already have a debit card.