Mastercard’s Chief Innovation Officer on Emerging Tech: Be ‘Insanely Curious’

By Meghan Hall |  August 8, 2022

Ken Moore is the Chief Innovation Officer at Mastercard, the $19 billion financial services giant.

In that role, Moore oversees exploration and scale-up of many of the company’s newest products and services. He also analyzes trends on the horizon.

“I think deeply about emerging trends. Those are trends typically driven from either technologies, or changes in end customer behavior, and [it’s important to understand] how those might impact both our business within Mastercard, but also the businesses of our customers,” Moore said. 

Ken Moore, Chief Innovation Officer, Mastercard

He said Mastercard has been evolving into a tech company that supports commerce. The company is headquartered outside of New York City, in Purchase, N.Y., but Moore works out of Dublin. 

He previously headed up Mastercard Labs, but his team is now part of Mastercard Foundry, which includes the company’s experience design team, digital futures team, customer research and insights teams, and project management excellence teams. Foundry focuses on applied research — identifying opportunities and executing them internally. Moore also has a seat on Mastercard’s Global Management Committee.

“One of the things that’s really misunderstood about Mastercard is people think of us as a payments company, and that’s way too narrow for what we are,” Moore said. “We’re a technology company [that operates] much more broadly in commerce. We have businesses in identity and cybersecurity and data that have nothing to do with payments whatsoever.”

Web3: Not Fully Baked Yet

Moore said that Web3 is far from a complete set of tools and infrastructure, and that it faces a number of challenges. 

The premise of Web3 allows its consumers to become the custodians of their own data — whether financial or otherwise. Moore said that may be a risky proposition because of the way the technology is currently set up.  

“Are users really ready to be the custodians of their own data? If they lose their phone, if they lose their keys to their data on the internet, what happens then? Because at the moment, those centralized providers, in effect, provide custodian services; they help recover in the event of something bad happening. Those safeguards are not in place in Web3 yet, nor are the protocols and frameworks to establish trust across many of these different walled gardens and, and wallets that exist,” he said. 

Moore said he thinks it’s likely that a version of the web that’s slightly more centralized may be the next evolution, rather than the fully decentralized model Web3 advocates say they are working toward.

“I wonder, would an easier landing spot be something more [along the lines] of Web 2.5, where you see some level of decentralization sitting around some centralized gardens? I think that’s a much more likely landing spot,” Moore said.  

He envisions a model similar to how open banking is set up; with open banking, users have more control over their personal data, but they also have a custodian. He said that model can be applied to industries where it’s not yet used today. 

“I think there’s a lot of work to be done for Web3… and there may even be easier paths to achieve the same outcome,” Moore said. 

Metaverse on the Rise

Moore said he sees significant promise in the metaverse, a digital environment where individuals can interact as avatars.

“I really do think that we will spend more time connecting as people…with brands, with governments, with destinations, with holidays, in a more digital world in the future,” he said.

Mastercard has already begun to experiment there. It has sponsored activities and events in Decentraland, a metaverse built atop Ethereum blockchain technology. The company recently organized its own event for Pride Month. Users of Decentraland could enter Mastercard’s Pride Month Plaza to purchase NFT wearables and watch speakers or live music performances. Mastercard had its own float in the Metaverse Pride Parade, as well. 

It has also experimented in the more game-like metaverses, like Roblox, where it partnered with the platform to put on the metaverse Grammys

Moore believes that like Web3, the metaverse has a long way to go. He said gaming platforms like Roblox are further along the development journey than other platforms, because Roblox and similar platforms already have large communities active within them. 

In the future, he expects that purchasing and trading in the metaverse will become more prominent and easier for consumers. He said he does not expect to see commerce at significant scale in the metaverse for at least three more years. 

Advice for Navigating Emerging Technologies

1. Be active in the space you’re learning about.

Moore said being active in a tech arena — whether the metaverse, NFTs, blockchain, or otherwise — helps to develop a strategy for using technology in the future. He said it also helps to determine what consumers and users are comfortable with, as well as the pain points they may experience.

2. Be “insanely curious” about technology. 

Moore said it’s essential to keep track of what technologies are advancing, who the key providers are, and being curious about how they may impact the organization.

3. Take a measured approach to investing at first.

Moore said being thoughtful about partnerships, spending, and overall commitment is important. At Mastercard, Moore’s team plays with purpose; it explores up-and-coming technologies while considering their practical implications and value to the organization as a whole. 

“I think you have to have a very measured approach to how you experiment with [technology]. For things that are fairly early in the cycle, we call it ‘play with a purpose,’ where we start to experiment with these technologies without necessarily investing deeply. … We’re using these technologies to say, ‘Do these things do what they claim to do? Are they ready for primetime?'” Moore said. “We invest some resources; we use some partners. … But then, as we start to get a degree of comfort that the technology is nearly ready, or already ready, we start to go a little bit deeper.”

 Note: This interview was conducted as part of our research initiative Shaping Your Strategy for Web3 and the Metaverse.