Mastercard CEO on Trump travel ban: 'What affects one of us, affects all of us'

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Technology and payments providers alike are worried President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration could hurt research and development and create difficulties for international employees.

"I am an immigrant to this wonderful country," said Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga in a Jan. 30 memo to employees. Banga, who has been CEO at Purchase, N.Y.-based Mastercard since 2010, grew up and attended schools in India. "I came here midway through my career and have, over the past years, made this my home and pledged my allegiance to all that the Constitution stands for."

Banga went on to say America has offered his family "all sorts of opportunities and joys," citing the education his daughters have received and the career he has been able to enjoy.

The diversity of Mastercard's workforce is "our strongest weapon to be innovative and creative," Banga said. "In our industry, with its pace of change, surrounding yourself with people who don't look like you and have had different experiences from you is the best way to ensure you don't have some blind spots, that you are get differing points of view and that you feel the pressure and pleasure of designing products and services for a diverse world."

Trump's executive order bars people from mostly Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days. The White House has declared that green card holders from those countries won't be barred from entry, but confusion reigned in the first days of the policy change, leading many concerned about what could be next and how it affects global employees.
Banga admitted the direct impact of the executive order on Mastercard may be limited, but noted, "What affects one of us, affects all of us."

In that regard, Mastercard is in "close contact with our impacted employees and have mobilized our resources to work on behalf of them and their families," Banga added.

Citigroup was more direct, criticizing the travel ban, saying it was worried about the impact on consumers and staff. Goldman Sachs was also critical, while JPMorgan Chase praised diversity as well as maintaining the need to keep the U.S. safe. Silicon Valley executives, which have largely been opposed to Trump positions on issues such as internet access, have been debating how far to go in protesting Trump's travel policy, noting that many staff and executives at technology companies are immigrants.

Most of them have been citing the need to view the sudden change in U.S. policy as something with long-term ramifications, noting that many in the technology and payments worlds are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.

The response to the directive to keep refugees from certain Middle East countries with track records in terrorism has sparked massive protests at airports across the country. The White House maintains it is is a safety precaution to evaluate the vetting process for refugees from war-torn terrorist havens and determine next steps, while detractors in Congress said it does nothing to secure the U.S. and instead incites and mobilizes terrorist cells. The potential business ramifications from executives across many industries has followed.

While the immigration ruling stirred quick rebuttal, payments and technology companies are also wary about other moves during Trump's first week in office.

Trump's executive order to start the process of constructing a security wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has been looked upon in some business circles as a deterrent to cross-border payments and commerce. Trump, in fact, has suggested stopping remittances between the U.S. and Mexico as a way to force Mexico to pay for the border wall.

Payments industry analysts and executives are also watching closely as Alibaba's Ant Financial moves forward on its deal to buy MoneyGram, thus bringing an Asia-based company into direct competition with U.S. money-transfer companies. It is unclear whether that deal may hit some roadblocks under Treasury Department scrutiny, considering Trump's past rhetoric on business dealings with China.

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