Ajay Banga

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Ajay Banga

The Times of India

Another Indian heads US giant

Chidanand Rajghatta | TNN The Times of India

Washington: An entirely India-educated financial pundit climbed a world corporate pinnacle on Monday with MasterCard Inc, the ubiquitous financial company, naming Pune-born, Delhi-educated, IIM-Ahmedabad alum Ajay Banga as its CEO.

Banga will take over the top position from current CEO Robert Selander on July 1, only 10 months after being hired from CitiGroup as a potential successor.

Banga joined MasterCard as president and chief operating officer from Citigroup last August, and was given a $4.2 million signing bonus he could keep if he wasn’t named CEO by June 30, 2010, according to a regulatory filing. Banga will retain his title of president when he becomes CEO. CitiGroup is also led by a CEO of Indian origin, Vikram Pandit, as is PepsiCo (CEO Indra Nooyi), which, like MasterCard, is headquartered in a small town called Purchase in New York. Purchase is also home to J P Morgan, another financial institution with a wealth of Indian talent in its top echelons.

Banga was born in Khadki outside Pune, where his father, an army officer, was posted. He grew up and schooled across India, successively studying in Secunderabad, Jalandhar, Delhi, Hyderabad and Shimla.

He forsook a career in the army that his father was keen he pursue and instead took a BA in Economics Honors from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and later an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

In that sense, Banga is an entirely Indiaminted executive who has reached the top of an international company. He started his career at Nestle and joined Citigroup in 1996 as head of marketing in India for the consumer business. Incidentally, his brother M S Banga is the former chairman of Hindustan Unilever Ltd. Banga’s task is to chase down Visa

Washington: Mastercard’s announcement about elevating Ajay Banga, who is a turbaned Sikh, came the same day PM Manmohan Singh is visiting the US for the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC. In recent years, the much-admired community from India has made strenous efforts to apprise Americans of their distinctive religion and culture, with even the White House responding by celebrating the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev for the first time last year, a point President Obama conveyed to PM Singh when they met in November.

In 2000, Ajay Banga was promoted to head CitiFinancial and the US consumer assets division. In 2002, he took over the retail bank in North America — his first stint in the US — and in 2005 he was named to head Citigroup’s international consumer-banking and finance businesses.

He moved to Hong Kong in early 2008 after being named to oversee all of the bank’s businesses in Asia, including credit cards and consumer banking, institutional banking, wealth management and alternative investments, before returning to the US last year with MasterCard. Banga’s task ahead is clear — to chase down leader Visa at a time both networks are said to be benefiting from consumers’ increased shift to plastic.

By 2013, card- and electronic-based payments will account for 63% of an estimated $9 trillion in US consumer transactions, according to experts.

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