MasterCard Worldwide June 24 launched an initiative dubbed MasterCard Partners in Prepaid designed to strengthen its partnerships with various prepaid card industry players.

Ajay Banga, who becomes MasterCard’s new CEO July 1, has made it clear through public statements since his promotion that the company will increase its efforts to drive growth in the prepaid space. MasterCard Partners in Prepaid appears to be one of the first steps designed to accomplish that goal.

The initiative’s focus will be on how MasterCard can better assist card issuers, program providers and other prepaid partners, which can range from. Partners in Prepaid is designed to focus on providing ideas through the sharing of global best practices and investments in partner growth.

The program also will provide a forum for participants to interact with each other.

“Not only are we enabling ongoing interaction with them so that we know what they need, we are enabling collaboration between [different participants],” Laura Kelly, MasterCard senior vice president of global prepaid solutions, tells PaymentsSource.

Partners in Prepaid will use various means tot try to achieve its goals, including through conference calls, Internet applications and surveys. The initiative can be compared with an online community group coming together for a common cause.

“It’s a very sound idea,” Adil Moussa, an analyst with Aite Group, tells PaymentsSource. “This helps MasterCard distinguish itself from their competitors.”

MasterCard is soliciting ideas from its partners about specifically what topics the initiative should address. There are plenty from which to choose, Moussa contends.

“The industry is at the mercy of changing government regulations, a weak economy and thinning margins,” he says.

While Partners in Prepaid initially will have no direct interaction with consumers, MasterCard is thinking through concepts to get the customer involved, Kelly says.

“As we build on our research and we build on the type of investments we’re talking about, it will inevitably touch the consumer,” she says.

For example, MasterCard is investing in grassroots financial-literacy groups that help to educate financially underserved consumers. The card brand this weekend is hosting a financial education seminar at the Apollo Theater in New York City.

“Financial literacy can advocate the benefits of prepaid and, in turn, that can help increase its use,” Kelly says.

The initiative’s bottom line is “about MasterCard’s strategy to be wrapped around our customers and very focused on growing our customers,” Kelly says. “The only way you do that is by building bridges and be as close as possible as you can to their thinking,” she adds.

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