Home » MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga on Taking Risks in Your Life and Career (Full Transcript)

MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga on Taking Risks in Your Life and Career (Full Transcript)

And, the second piece was that MasterCard’s number of employees are relatively small. Citibank had 290,000, 300,000 employees around when I was leaving. And at a point of time, 200,000 of them used to work for me. And it’s impossible to make change with 200,000 people in your 3, 4, 5 year span. But if you’ve got 5,000, 2,000, 10,000, 15,000 people working for you, you can touch them, feel them, put your arms around them, they know who you are, they can understand you, you can make a difference. You can actually change things in that company. I was telling the Dean, when we were talking just a little while ago, when I joined MasterCard, we had 9% of our population was millennials. It’s now four and a half years later, we closed last year 34% from millennials. I could never have done that at Citi. I just could not.

Interviewer: But can you argue millennials and stock price are correlated?

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: Not on buying, maybe on doing something about it. Yeah, that’s true. Our stock value has quadrupled in these four years, that is true, right. But, that I think has to do with the fact that we are doing two things well, laying out a clear strategy. It is simple to understand, and we are executing against it and putting our money where our mouth is. And if you do that well over a period of time, stock markets tend to compensate you well.

Interviewer: So I’m going to try something a little bit different, let’s take humility put it in a box and throw it out the window. You’re now CEO of MasterCard, Citi had you on deck to be CEO of Citi. Fortune had you as one of the top business people of 2013, you are a big deal.

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: Where’s my daughter, is she in the audience? If she’s here I want to hear that. There she is hiding.

Interviewer: And so, now with all this professional success.

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: San don’t laugh me.

Interviewer: What are one or two things about you, personality traits, personal characteristic that have set you apart and let you have so much success while others have stalled, they’ve kind of reached their dance in their career?

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: You got to ask somebody else who would evaluate me on that, I would tell you that, I would think humility is actually a big part of this, you can’t throw it out the window, because if you’re not willing to learn from people and adapt and adjust and progress in your mind, there’s always learning, you can’t be in a company like this and succeed, it just, it doesn’t make any sense. But I think that’s important. I think I picked that up over the years in some ways from people I saw and watched. Barry Ryan for example, used to have the ability in Nestle to deal with the junior most employee and the senior most as much interest of purpose with each of them. The gentleman at Citi, Sandy Weill who was the chairman and CEO and the founder of the merged Citigroup, has exactly the same attitude. He can deal with the gardener in his vineyard, he can afford vineyards, so he’s done well. And he can deal with a gardener in his vineyard with the same interest and purpose and passion as he does with a president of a country. I don’t know that you can divorce that from success. I think it’s actually a key part of who you are, and how successful you can be. I think you can be successful without the humility, but you won’t enjoy it as much. So that’s kind of one big part of it.

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I think the second part of it is, you’ve got to be willing to take risks with your life and your career. And you guys do that. This school produces entrepreneurs and people who want to take a risk. But, so it’s a little preaching to the converted here. But it wasn’t that way some years ago. And it isn’t that way with a lot of your colleagues and friends and pals, who don’t take the same risks, and by risks I don’t mean changing jobs only, I mean where you live and what you do. Aditi has been to eight or nine schools before she left high school. Around the world, in different places. Her sister, the younger sister, had been to a similar number. We’ve lived in as a family, Ritu and I have moved I don’t know how many times now. And, we’ve lived in a house of our own, for the first time after coming to the US. Otherwise it’s always been a rented house somewhere rented by a company and moving around. And I moved from, different functions and different companies. You have to take those risks. That’s it, those two probably are the most striking.

Interviewer: And so I spoke to your daughter yesterday and she mentioned that you love Lady Gaga. And so, so, my question.

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: Can you believe that? Do I look like a Lady Gaga kind of guy?

Interviewer: Is it true?

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: Actually, I do.

Interviewer: And so, the question is.

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: Among others.

Interviewer: Among others.

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: Just to be clear.

Interviewer: Do you think that you were born that way? Or was there a point in time where you made the decision that Ajay, I’m going to be more humble and take more risks?

Ajay Banga –CEO, MasterCard: I’m thinking about the me to address, but never mind. I don’t know, I don’t think you’re born that way. I think this thing about you’re born this way, you’re born that way, is given too much credence. I think your mind is capable of a great deal, of learning, adapting and comprehending, and disciplining, and operating in a method that you care for. I think what your early experiences and the values you pick up. Yes, that makes a difference. But I don’t, I don’t believe in this born that way stuff. I just think, you pick it up as you go along. And you’re capable of changing who you are, as you go along.

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