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MasterCard Bets on Murphy

Stocks in this article: MA V AXP

One area that particularly peaks Murphy's interest is the growing prepaid card space.

"Other colleagues are out trying to do new and different things. My job is to make sure that the revenues coming in today keep coming in,"

-- Tim Murphy, MasterCard's chief product officer.

"We see it as a big growth opportunity in the U.S. and around the world," he said. "Generally, people misunderstand prepaid and tend to think of it in gift cards. That's how the industry was developed over the last 10 years or so, but prepaid is increasingly becoming a whole variety of different things way beyond gift. And the growth is really amazing in these new areas."

A study by the Boston Consulting Group, which was commissioned by MasterCard this year, estimates that the global prepaid industry could bulge to $840 billion by 2017 from $172 billion at the end of 2009 -- a compound growth rate in the mid-20s, Murphy noted.

Not only is prepaid being marketed to those that are so-called unbanked, to use an industry term, consumers who do not have bank accounts and tend to use pricey check cashing services. But with the advent of reloadable cards, the prepaid card is slowly becoming an alternative to a checking account.

Social Security checks, for instance, are no longer mailed to a receiver's home - they either get direct deposit or a MasterCard prepaid card, Murphy said.

Large corporations that employ consumers that may not have bank accounts are also looking to pay in the form of prepaid cards as well, he added.

"For us it's a critical growth area," he said. "We really are very focused on prepaid. I believe here at MasterCard we have the best team in the industry on it ... and we're just going to go all out at that space."

MasterCard's efforts are likely a lesson learned from its failures in the U.S. debit space. MasterCard's larger rival, Visa (V), scooped up a large portion of the debit share in the country, as MasterCard continued to focus on its credit products, both at home and internationally. That move proved to be troublesome for MasterCard as the financial crisis hit and consumers and businesses shored up their excessive credit spending.

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