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A Crowning Career: Mastercard Executive Chairman Ajay Banga to Retire End of the Year

A Crowning Career: Mastercard Executive Chairman Ajay Banga to Retire End of the Year

  • Following a successful decade as CEO, he transitioned to the executive chairman role at the beginning of this year.

Mastercard executive chairman Ajay Banga will retire on Dec. 31, the company has announced. The board of directors of the Purchase, New York-based company named Merit Janow, currently lead independent director, to serve as non-executive independent board chairwoman, effective Jan. 1, 2022.

Banga has served as executive chairman since Jan. 1 after an 11-year tenure as Mastercard’s president and CEO. Following a successful decade as CEO, Banga transitioned to the executive chairman role at the beginning of this year. “Among his responsibilities during the transition were serving as a counselor to the CEO and facilitating a smooth transition of key external relationships — including customers and regulators — to Miebach,” per a company press release. 

Banga joined Mastercard in 1996, where he spent 13 years, culminating in his appointment as chairman and CEO of Citi’s international global consumer group in 2005.

“With Merit as chair and the strong foundation Michael Miebach has established as CEO, Mastercard is in incredible hands for the next phase of growth and innovation,” Banga said in the press release. “I am grateful for the role I have been able to play in Mastercard’s evolution and I look forward to where Merit and Michael will lead it next.”

He served as a member of President Obama’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity and is a past member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.

Banga was born in 1961 in a Sikh family in Khadki outside Pune, Maharashtra but originally belonged from Jalandhar in Punjab, according to his profile in MBA Rendezvous, a content lead MBA portal in India. His father Harbhajan Singh Banga was Lt.General (Retd.) in the Indian Army. Due to his father’s postings, Banga was schooled across India — Secunderabad, Jalandhar, Delhi, Hyderabad and Shimla, where he finished his schooling.

Banga chose not to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Indian Army. Instead, he attended St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and graduated with a BA in Economics. He then completed his MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

“In that sense, Banga stands as an entirely India-minted executive who has climbed the echelons of an international company,” MBA Rendezvous says, “while others like Vikram Pandit (CitiGroup) and Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo.) have U.S degrees in addition to the ones they earned in India.”

Before Mastercard, Banga was the chief executive officer of Citigroup Asia Pacific. During his career at Citigroup, he held a variety of senior management roles in the United States, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa. He also oversaw the company’s efforts in microfinance.

“Banga stands as an entirely India-minted executive who has climbed the echelons of an international company”

Banga started his career at Nestle India as a management trainee in 1981 and spent the next 13 years of his career holding a variety of assignments spanning sales, marketing and general management. He later joined PepsiCo’s Restaurants Division, where he was instrumental in the launch of Pizza Hut and KFC in India due to the liberalization of the economy.

He joined Citigroup in 1996 as the head of marketing in India for the consumer business and served in a variety of positions of increasing responsibility. These included chairman and chief executive officer of the International Global Consumer Group; president of Retail Banking North America; business head for CitiFinancial and the U.S. Consumer Assets Division; and division executive for the consumer bank in Central/Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India.

In 2000, Banga was promoted to head CitiFinancial and the U.S. consumer assets division. In 2002 he took over the retail bank in North America – his first stint in the U.S. — and in 2005 he was named to head Citigroup’s international consumer-banking and finance businesses.

He moved to Hong Kong in early 2008 after being named to oversee all of the bank’s businesses in Asia, including credit cards and consumer banking, institutional banking, wealth management and alternative investments, before returning to the U.S. in 2009 to join MasterCard.

Banga has a keen interest in social development issues, and over the period from 2005 to mid-2009, he spearheaded Citi’s strategy in the microfinance sector across the world.

Banga told MBA Rendezvous that his management style is “very passionate,” but he takes time to work his passion. “I mean I study something and I try to understand both sides of the debate because if you’ve been a banker and worked around the world long enough, you kind of have to understand both sides of the debate,” he said. “But you have to have a point of view, and so I believe in having a point of view on an issue and not ducking the issue.”

Although he led a company “that is synonymous with plastic,” Banga encouraged his staff to focus on cash. He also tried to keep his workplace less intense. In the interview with MBA Rendezvous, he described himself as “very easy going,” and someone who encourages his colleagues to say things to him that they would never have had a chance to say to most bosses. 

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“That is because I spend too many hours in an office, and they spend too many hours in the office to be stressed out at each other,” he said. “It’s not the bloody army. It’s a company, they choose to be here. They could all go away and join somebody else. So if I behave like a, my father was a general in the army, if I behaved like a general in the army, I will get soldiers.”

In recognition of his illustrious career, Banga has received several accolades, including the Padma Shri, which the Government of India conferred on him in 2016. He received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2019 and the Business Council for International Understanding’s Global Leadership Award. He is a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association and was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal in 2012.

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Economic Club of New York, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Business Roundtable, where he chairs the Information and Technology Initiative.

A co-founder of The Cyber Readiness Institute, he is also chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce and a trustee of the United States Council for International Business. He is a founding trustee of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum, a member of the U.S.-India CEO Forum and is chairman emeritus of the American India Foundation. Additionally, Banga is a member of the Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Fellows and serves as a director of Dow Inc., and as a member of its compensation and governance committees.

Within the last five years, Banga has also served on the boards of trustees of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the National Urban League and the New York Hall of Science, and was a director of the Council for Economic Education. The Economic Times of India named Banga the fourth “Most Powerful Indian” in the world.

Last year, he was elected chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) succeeding Paul Polman. He previously served as ICC’s first vice-chair since June 2018. In July, he joined the advisory board of General Atlantic’s climate change fund, BeyondNetZero.

Banga is a regular speaker at various FinTech and leadership conferences. He was the keynote speaker at the NYU Stern 2014 Graduate Convocation on May 22, 2014, where he spoke about the importance of diversity in driving innovation and leadership. He also was a keynote speaker for his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, during the Class of 2015 convocation.

He is married to Ritu Banga, founder of Zoomdojo, a college-to-career initiative in New York. The couple has two daughters, Aditi Banga and Jojo Banga. 

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