Le Journal du Net is a partner of the Mastercard Innovation Forum 2022, scheduled for December 8 in Paris. Mastercard’s senior vice president, Martin Etheridge, details the outlines of Mastercard’s strategy with cryptocurrencies and NFTs to JDN.
JDN extension. Raj Dhamodharan, executive vice president of Mastercard, recently posted a titled article “How to turn cryptocurrencies into an everyday means of payment?” How does Mastercard invest in this cryptocurrency ecosystem?
Martin Etheridge. I think we have to start with our role, which is to give customers choice in terms of payment methods, securely. A Mastercard crypto payment card allows users to use the available balance on their wallet for cryptocurrencies using our real-time secure network. Likewise, if they want to use a bank-issued Mastercard and make a purchase on a cryptocurrency exchange platform, that is their choice and they can. It is the bank’s responsibility to know its customers and we have a number of tools available to our card issuers to analyze user activity and behavior in terms of cryptocurrencies.
Mastercard is now partnered with many cryptocurrency payment platforms. Do you see a growing consumer appetite for the use of these active ingredients?
Indeed, we are seeing a significant growth in consumer interest: our Mastercard Global New Payment Index shows that a third of users worldwide have already made an investment in crypto-assets. In Europe the figure is slightly lower but what is interesting is the percentage of the population that intends to increase its use of cryptocurrencies in the future and this is a higher rate than the number of current users. What we have seen is the desire of users to enter this type of market with a reliable infrastructure, which is why on October 18, we announced a collaboration with Paxos to allow banks to make certain purchases and holdings of crypto-assets for their users, using the functionality that Mastercard is able to provide.
In 2018, when you were head of the fintech and digital currencies division at the Bank of England, you went to the House of Commons with a clear distinction between technology and crypto-assets. Is that still a line you share today, now that you’re at Mastercard?
Indeed, in my opinion it is absolutely necessary to understand the different types of cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets available. Over the past two years, we have seen significant growth in the use of technology blockchain, for example with NFTs, which are inherently very different from most cryptocurrencies, fungible by nature. Indeed, I still agree with what I said earlier: it is very important to understand the different characteristics of the different assets that underpin these technologies and how they are used in the markets.
“We are following the theme of the digital euro very closely”
What about CBDCs (central bank digital currencies)? Do you think Europe is behind on this issue?
No I do not think so. We have seen many documents, research from European institutions such as the European Parliament and the European Commission: there is a real will to analyze the theme of the digital euro and this is something we are following carefully.
Could we imagine a non-private Mastercard solution in the future?
I can’t list all the products that are about to be released on Mastercard, but I can mention our manager cyber security who regularly says, “Trust is at the heart of our business.” We want to support our customers as they look for new ways to pay using the trust and security provided by our payment network.
How does Mastercard design the metaverse?
It is already possible to make payments with a Mastercard in metaverse ; many metaverse applications such as purchasing NFTs can be done with a Mastercard. We have also organized events in the metaverse and are very proud of them, especially the celebrations of diversity (Your True Self is Priceless campaign in Decentraland and Horizon Worlds in June 2022, ed). It’s hard to predict how far this will go, but we’re very curious and excited to explore different ways to support the payment infrastructure there securely.
Economics graduate from the University of Bristol, Martin Etheridge began his professional career as an executive at the Financial Conduct Authority, the UK equivalent of the MFA, in 2001. He joined the Bank of England in 2011 where he assumed responsibility for the regulatory department before taking over the digital currencies until 2020, the year of his departure for Mastercard. In January 2022, he became the vice president in charge of product development, blockchain and digital currencies.