Photo from Mastercard website.

Mastercard's Matthew Driver on how AI can boost loyalty programs, regulatory compliance

Organisations must realize that not everything is black and white and adjust accordingly.

For Mastercard, the future of travel and retail is one woven together by strong loyalty programs and the right use of AI – a future that Matthew Driver, executive vice president and head of Services for Asia Pacific, is extremely keen on exploring.

“The potential for AI and generative AI, specifically, is really, really large,” Driver told Asian Banking & Finance in a sit-down chat. “I think the challenge is that, as Bill Gates said, we’ll overestimate in two years and underestimate in 10 years. I think that’s always going to be the thing — trying to figure out what exactly it will be.”

Mastercard, at least according to Driver, has it all figured out and they make no secret of it. Here’s what it takes: a mixture of personal ambition to become a leading company in the use of AI; the right use of tools to ensure personalisation, regulatory compliance, and privacy; and overall ensuring its relevance in their products and services.

“We want to ensure that we’ve got strong AI governance, ensure that we’re protecting customer data, that we have got an ethical AI approach and governance. And then we want to make sure that we’re also participating and driving AI for social good. More broadly, how do we participate and engage with regulators to ensure [we] have the right kind of framework?” Driver mused.

Mastercard, in particular, plans to show how data and AI can be used to create a curated travel experience — all while the customers remain in control of it.

“[AI] can help you secure your itinerary, I can learn your preferences, and it can make that entire process much easier and more intuitive. I think that’s something that’s relevant to most people who notice it,” Driver said.
A question of trust and culture
Using AI comes with all sets of issues, especially when the plan is to use it to enhance the traveling experience. How does one strike the balance between using these new AI features whilst ensuring that it is unbiased and transparent?

For Driver, the answer is simple: it’s really just about trust.

“Why does MasterCard have such a well-regarded brand? Because people trust us to be a positive, responsible actor in the process.

"Having a responsible data program and an ethical AI governance process over the top, with respect to how you develop your models; making sure that you’re aware of the potential biases that you’re contemplating the data that you’re getting access to; that you're minimising your data footprint,” he noted.

“[We’re] thinking about potential bias testing to ensure it’s not there, making sure you’ve got that transparency, that explained ability. I think all those things are important, even before you start building AI,” Driver added.

Talking about the future goes beyond just the hottest new tech on the table, and Driver went beyond just discussing generative AI to highlight one of Mastercard’s tried and true business lines: loyalty programs.

Driver noted the seemingly contradictory nature of loyalty programs nowadays — one that strikes the balance between personalisation and privacy.

It all starts with transparency and minimising, he said. “We try to make sure we’re minimising. We’re not pulling data that we don’t need, or we’re not seeking data that we don’t need. We cleanse it, we anonymise it, we categorise it, and we put it into our data warehouse, and then we build insights off the back of [it],” Driver said.

Black, white, gray
There’s also the question of regulation, especially with each country and market implementing their own set of laws and standards, at different paces.

Driver reiterated the need for organisations to ensure that they have the right tools at their disposal, whether it be in using and applying AI or processing data for personalisation whilst maintaining privacy and having the right governance in place.

“Make sure that you’ve got really cutting-edge tools to minimise risks as you build out your technology foundations to really stay up to date with what’s happening,” Driver said, adding that organisations should ensure that they have dynamic AI governance that comply with upcoming regulations and also strengthen their general oversight.

Setting out strategic partnerships will also be key, not just in regulation compliance, but in positioning your company in the future.

“You also need to think about strategic partnerships with industry leaders to align on common solutions. Look at upskilling your own talent at all levels. Data literacy is really important, so [that] people can understand the benefits and the risks,” he said.

He further highlighted the importance of proactively engaging with policymakers and the industry and recognising the need to balance innovation with the risks.

“Also, understand that in certain domain areas, sometimes it’s black and white; and other areas, it’s gray. There’s history and things like that. You need to recognise that different people are going to have different approaches. I think one, you need to respect that; [and] two, you need to understand why that happened,” Driver said.

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