Carolina Caballero, Mastercard

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Growing up in Argentina with a father who worked in banking, Carolina Caballero had always considered a career in financial services. But it was her curiosity and global sense of adventure that led her to become head of innovation for B2B payments at Mastercard.

Caballero steadily advanced through a variety of payments-related jobs at consulting firms and banks — including a stint at Argentina’s central bank — developing a rich set of skills and experiences that places her among PaymentsSource’s Most Influential Women in Payments.

Caballero’s upward mobility is tied to her consistent willingness to leave her comfort zones by relocating across the world or rebooting her skills, along with the courage to challenge any double standard.

Read more: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2020

“When you’re not invited to certain circles or meetings, ask why not," Caballero advises women who want to advance in the payments industry. "When told you’re not strategic or you don’t have the right executive presence, ask for details. Often when I’ve questioned the double standard and asked for evidence, the person on the other end wasn’t able to provide it, sometimes revealing an unconscious bias may have been at work."

When Caballero received constructive criticism, she acted on it. One suggestion was the need to improve her presentation style, as a non-native English speaker who talked fast.

“I had to learn to modulate and pace myself to appeal to an executive audience and present myself as a more thoughtful and strategic leader,” she said.

Carolina Caballero, head of innovation for B2B payments, Mastercard
Carolina Caballero, Head of Innovation for B2B Payments, Mastercard

Caballero sought out new jobs that would expand her skills. After studying economics at the University of Florida, she returned to Argentina to work for a couple of years as an Accenture consultant in the corporate payments and receivables area.

Plucked for a job at Argentina’s central bank, Caballero spent four years there fine-tuning local banks’ financial reporting systems and pioneering the development of a risk-management control panel for supervised banks. Afterwards, she headed to the University of Michigan for an MBA.

After a year spent in a student exchange program at the London School of Economics, Caballero went to New York for a banking job at JPMorgan Chase. A couple of years later she joined Deloitte, working in wealth management, before pivoting back to a payments-centered job at Citi.

Over seven years at Citi, Caballero rose through various positions to become executive director and global head of cross-border business payments and intraday liquidity, a role that drew on her growing skills in streamlining payments processes.

Then Mastercard called with a job in the emerging payments technology arena, where she would be charged with finding ways to use blockchain and other new processes to improve global B2B payments.

“It was risky because I was leaving a secure situation at Citi where I’d built an internal support network and I had developed credibility with senior management, and now I would essentially have to start that all over again, but I was up to trying it,” Caballero said.

At Mastercard over the last three years, Caballero has established new internal connections and branched into new areas, including serving as a coach and mentor for internal payments innovation events.

Drawing on her diverse experiences in three countries, Caballero can envision multiple perspectives as Mastercard expands its cross-border payments capabilities, including integrating account-to-account services through its Vocalink acquisition and developing digital bill payment services.

“I’ve worked on all kinds of use cases, from retail to corporate to the individual end user, and I can think like a regulator when called upon, which helps me see where concerns in new payment innovations may arise,” she said.

What grabs Caballero’s attention lately is the potential for digital currencies to dramatically reshape the payments industry if they achieve broad scale.

“There’s a lot happening and a lot of hype, but I’m currently assessing what happens if a digital currency like a Facebook Libra or a central bank-issued digital currency launches and what it means for banks, cards, clearinghouses and end users,” she said.

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