MasterCard Worldwide is banking heavily on growth in emerging markets in Asia and Latin America to achieve average annual net-income growth of 20% to 30%, Walt M. Macnee, MasterCard president, global markets, told analysts during a conference last week. China and India present the biggest opportunities for MasterCard in Asia because mass urbanization in both countries is giving rise to second- and third-tier cities with populations of 1 million to 3 million residents, he said. The shift to cities is fueling middle-class growth and boosting discretionary spending, especially among women. "Women in Asia are becoming the key financial decision-makers in households, and they also appear to have more discretionary spending power than ever before," Macnee said. A growing sector of affluent Asian women also is driving new credit card products, such as the Lady's Solitaire World MasterCard launched in March by Singapore's largest issuer, United Overseas Bank Limited, he noted. The card pays triple points on purchases of luxury merchandise and also grants cardholders access to concierge-level services, events and fashion shows. Latin America presents another growth opportunity for MasterCard, as an increasingly youthful population shifts from almost exclusive reliance on cash to electronic payments, particularly debit cards. In Venezuela the government is using MasterCard prepaid debit cards to replace cash in a widely used public meal-voucher program. "By 2010, there will be more people in Latin America under the age of 35 than in the U.S. and Europe combined, and it's that younger segment that will be our engine of growth in Latin America," Macnee said.

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