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Success Story

Advancing purpose-driven Total Rewards at Mastercard

Compensation Strategy & Design|Health and Benefits|Inclusion and Diversity|Retirement|Talent|Total Rewards|Wellbeing|Future of Work

By Christina Brenner , John M. Bremen and Amy DeVylder Levanat | June 28, 2021

A case study: Mastercard connects purpose to profit by committing to fair employee compensation, benefits and careers, and community.

Mastercard is a purpose-driven organization with demonstrated success in driving profit through purpose. During the period from 2010 to 2020, while connecting purpose to profit, company leadership achieved average annual profit growth of nearly 19%, a 40%-plus return on capital and a total shareholder return approaching 1,600%.

In the company’s view, such profits are tied to a commitment to fair employee compensation, benefits and careers, as well as community. Mastercard supports initiatives on environmental sustainability and leadership in financial inclusion, working on its goal to add 1 billion unbanked people around the world onto the financial grid by 2025, with a specific focus on under-represented areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.

The magic of diversity is that when you give people a level playing field, they will win — we will win — because they always had the potential to do so.”

Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach and Executive Chair Ajay Banga

To support its purpose-driven culture, Mastercard shifted focus to a decency quotient (DQ) that drives its culture and everything the company does inside and outside of the organization. The decency quotient aligns with data from Willis Towers Watson’s Workplace Dignity Survey that reports 94% of employers recognize dignity as important to driving business success.

Mastercard Executive Chair Ajay Banga said, “Decency is the foundation for the kinds of relationships that drive respect, innovation, urgency and enterprise-wide thinking. It’s what supports and inspires people to believe that they can trust you and that you will have your hand on their back and not in their face. This lets them know that they can bring their full hearts and minds to all that they do.”

In 2019, Mastercard’s total rewards and talent teams partnered in developing a purpose-driven total rewards strategy to connect with “Priceless Possibilities” for its employees and an employee value proposition “Enabled by the Whole You.” The new total rewards philosophy “offers a competitive total rewards program that provides employees with the flexibility to meet them where they are and where they want to go, with the choice they need to best support their colleagues and serve their partners and clients.”

Its guiding principles:

  • Meet individual needs (choice & security concept)
  • Provide competitive (market-based) total rewards
  • Recognize results (pay for performance)
  • Ensure fairness and transparency (DQ)

In its annual Sustainability Report, “Doing well by doing good,” Mastercard outlines its success in achieving inclusive growth, creating a more inclusive world through its products, programs and partnership. Internally, its people and culture programs leverage the company’s core values to make Mastercard the place where the best people choose to be.

In 2020, Mastercard created a further challenge to develop a new total rewards model that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) while supporting new ways of working during and after the pandemic, and increased emphasis on employee wellbeing. The company also sought to drive sustainability goals, and ESG more broadly through its multi-billion-dollar investment in total rewards, while practicing flexible cost management and optimization.

A new Equitable Total Rewards model achieved these objectives through pay, benefits and career equity — all anchored by wellbeing at the center (see Figure 1):

Circular graphic with employee wellbeing at the center.
Figure 1: Equitable Total Rewards Model

Equitable Total Rewards supports Mastercard’s premise that global inclusion and diversity is about more than bringing together people with different backgrounds. It’s a belief that differences enable Mastercard to be a better team — one that makes better decisions, drives innovation and delivers better business results. “At Mastercard, we strive to create meaningful connections, inspire acceptance and cultivate a culture where we all belong.”

According to CEO Michael Miebach and Executive Chair Banga, “The magic of diversity is that when you give people a level playing field, they will win — we will win — because they always had the potential to do so, when given the chance.”


SVP, Total Rewards, Mastercard

Chief Innovation & Acceleration Officer

Senior Director, Human Capital & Benefits

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