Mastercard’s Darrell MacMullin explains how emerging tech turns into financial innovation

Mastercard Canada - BetaKit Live
SVP of Product and Solutions says trust must be at forefront of new tech.

The last twenty years have seen several waves of new technology. The Internet boom of the ’90s shifted into the mobile era in the early aughts, coinciding with the cloud throughout the 2010s.

Now, we’re at the beginning of the next cycle, which features advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, digital identity, and quantum technologies. Darrell MacMullin, Mastercard Canada’s SVP of Product and Solutions, who has experienced all these tech cycles, believes that they share a common misconception.

“I find it kind of interesting that, initially, [we] all think of these technologies as products,” MacMullin said. “And they’re not actually products. They’re actually capabilities.”

“The reality is trust doesn’t move at the same pace as technology.”

In his role at Mastercard Canada, MacMullin has been working with many of these emerging technologies for some time. While the financial services firm isn’t necessarily the player creating all of these technologies, MacMullin said it is keen on scaling them.

“It’s not about what new technologies Mastercard is bringing to the table,” MacMullin said. “It’s ‘How do we make these technologies usable enough at a wide scale that people can trust them?’”

There’s still a long road ahead in building that trust in the industry. Particularly with AI, the challenge lies in making it trustworthy. Mastercard’s latest Signals report focused on Emerging Tech Trends, examines the use cases and challenges of emerging technologies, identified user trust and acceptance as a key challenge for the future of AI adoption.

“The reality is trust doesn’t move at the same pace as technology,” MacMullin said. “Every week, there’s a hot new thing on technology, but do people trust it at the same pace? No, it takes time.”

In a recent fireside discussion with BetaKit editor-in-chief Douglas Soltys, MacMullin laid out three areas where Mastercard feels it can create the conditions for emerging technology to underpin compelling financial products.

The first area is data. MacMullin pointed out that despite financial institutions having vast amounts of data, the connection between an individual and their bank often feels oddly distant.

“Say, if you’re at [an] institution forever and you sign up for a new product, you’re treated like a day one customer,” he said. “It’s mind boggling.”

Mastercard has a pretty big advantage on the data front without having access to personal information. With billions of cards generating over a trillion data points daily, and now the analytical power provided by AI, MacMullin believes the company is poised to elevate customer experiences from mere transactions to meaningful interactions that foster loyalty.

The second area is security. MacMullin reinforced that Mastercard is focused on ensuring new tech is “providing the level of safety and security and soundness that people can trust and build trust with over time.”

MacMullin believes emerging tech like biometrics and real-time authentication will be key in not only shaping this trust framework, but also enriching the safety experience through the third key area: real-time connectivity. He compared the conventional checkout experience with using ride-sharing apps, noting how some employ various complex layers of authentication that aren’t visible to the end user.

“There is a significant level of authentication that’s happened before you even get in the car,” MacMullin said, adding that biometrics and real-time authentication could create a checkout experience that is just as seamless. “It will be less about the checkout and more about checking in,” he added.

Open banking is where MacMullin believes data analytics, cybersecurity, and real-time connectivity all converge. The concept has been slow to gain traction in Canada, and MacMullin believes this sluggishness partly stems from the phrase itself.

“It terrifies banks, and it terrifies consumers,” MacMullin said, noting that “open” implies that data and money are not going to be secure, which contradicts the fundamental principle of a financial system.

MacMullin posited a different framing of open banking: connected finance, which he explored in depth with Soltys during their fireside conversation. Watch the full conversation below.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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