Article: Big Interview: Ron Garrow on MasterCard's India talent strategy

Strategic HR

Big Interview: Ron Garrow on MasterCard's India talent strategy

Ron Garrow, CHRO, MasterCard, on his mantra for staying connected to the millennial workforce, how CSR initiatives are helping MasterCard attract and engage employees, the company's future talent strategy in India and more
Big Interview: Ron Garrow on MasterCard's India talent strategy

We are on a mission to contribute to the world and be more than just a tech company in the payments space. That is also helping us attract, engage and retain talent.


My 24-year old reverse mentor has reshaped my thinking in the way I show up as a leader


Ron Garrow is the CHRO of MasterCard and is responsible for all Human Resources (HR) functions globally, including driving cultural transformation, building leadership capability and creating a company that is “most valued to work for.” With a career experience spanning more than 27 years in Human Resources, Ron also has experience with commercial and consumer businesses, corporate and investment banking, and credit card and call center operations. He is also a member of the Bersin Advisory Board.

You have been in the HR function for almost three decades now. How have you seen the function evolve?

As I reflect back over my past 27 years in Human Resources, what has really changed is the role as well as the importance of the function. We have migrated from doing personnel management to being a business partner. CEOs are now placing high importance to the HR function and are seeing us more as strategic advisors.

HR is evolving from thinking just about the basics of the function to really driving the talent management agenda. I now see a lot of CHROs emerging from a talent management and talent learning background; whereas years ago, we (CHROs) grew up on the compensation benefits and business partner side.

What are the trends you see in the HR function today?

I see HR in organizations becoming more consumer-driven. The Human Resource function is starting to see people as its consumers and is sharpening its focus on employee experience. So if I were to take my own example, the 11,000 employees at MasterCard are my consumers and I have to design my HR plans and programs thinking about them.

Another trend that I have seen in the HR function is the confluence of different generations in the workforce. For instance, MasterCard itself has 38 percent millennials today; five years ago the number was less than 10 percent. It is important to heed to the trends in the way this generation learns and the way it wants to be developed.

What do you do differently to stay connected with the millennial workforce?

To connect to those 38 percent millennials at MasterCard, I seek the help of my 24-year old reverse mentor. She is a part of the communications team and is based out of New York.

The mentor and mentee relationship of ours has been going on for over a year and half. She has reshaped my thinking in the way I show up as a leader. She is the one who has made me comfortable with Twitter and has taught me to rethink the way I use LinkedIn everyday. This mentor-mentee relationship has been a complete win-win situation– she guides me on my path to become an accessible, visible leader and I give her career advice!

But most importantly, she is a great lens for the things that we do internally and gives me a perspective of the way my workforce functions. That helps me in ensuring that I communicate and connect with this new generation of employees. To be effective at my work, I need to know and understand my people, I need to know and understand this young generation, and I personally believe that every CHRO must be cognizant of that. 

How can leaders be effective at reverse mentoring? How have you successfully structured this in MasterCard?

A rigid structured mentoring system is unlikely to work sustainably. At MasterCard, we have a structure for reverse mentors, but it isn’t too structured either. 

One of our business resource group, called ‘Young Professionals’ (YoPros), has actually established this reverse mentoring program. If an employee wants a reverse mentor, he can reach out to YoPros and they will match you with an individual who’s a part of the YoPros Association. The mentor and mentee can meet and decide on what all are the areas they need mentoring for, how long they want to work together, etc., and come to an agreement with each other.

Other organizations can also start reverse mentoring programs with business resource groups and young professional groups.

How has MasterCard attuned itself to the changing landscape in the payments space, especially with the emergence of digital wallets and increasing competition?

Our organization is undergoing a transformation in the way we operate. This year our company will be 50 years old and we will also celebrate our 10th anniversary since going public. When we went public in 2006, we were an association of banks and issuers. Initially, after our IPO, the company’s focus on these customers stayed pretty much the same. But now we have embarked on a journey to be recognized as a technology company – in the payments space.

Driven with passion and energy, we are now focused on technology and innovation and building capability within a ‘merging payment space’. That has been a real driving force for us. Our talent strategy is also intended towards the same direction. To attract a young workforce and accommodating new ideas, we have removed ‘years of experience’ as an eligibility criterion in job descriptions and also, 40 percent of our hiring now comes from nonconventional industries like merchants, governments, etc.

Besides the initiatives shared above, what else do you do to constantly motivate your people to be innovative?

We are on a mission to do more than just be a tech company in the payments space. We want to contribute to the world. So we are focused on financial inclusion and philanthropic efforts. To give an example, in our executive committee meetings, we discuss about issues such as water scarcity. One might wonder why would a ‘technology company’ talk about water scarcity, but that connects to our agenda of doing something good for the world.

This also has a ‘talent attraction’ and ‘talent engagement’ dimension to it; which is that people should feel good about being a part of a company that is giving something back to the world. That particularly has helped us in trying to maintain and cultivate energy of enthusiasm and excitement. Our people think that they are a part of something great, a part of a company which is making a difference to the world.

What is your talent strategy and future plans for India? Are there any special focus areas?

India is a very important market for our company. The fact that we have grown from less than 100 employees to 1300 employees elucidates the fact. There are two factors behind this influx– one, there were acquisitions in MasterCard that expedited our growth (it acquired C-Sam and Electra-Card Services), and the other reason was just the talent and enthusiasm in the Indian talent market.

Going back to our vision of being a tech company in the payments space, we are looking at having talent with technical capability, and India is a wonderful base of tech-sensitive skills. We are also looking at tapping into the next generation of talent (millennials), and want to bolster it even further by focusing on campus hiring.

Another area where we are focusing on is women inclusion in the workforce, especially in Asia. Overall at MasterCard, the workforce’s gender ratio stands at 60 percent men and 40 percent women. However in Asia, it drops to 33 women in 100 employees. For MasterCard, having a higher representation of women has business significance as well. We are also working towards increasing tech capability in women. We have a program called ‘Girls for Tech’ and we are building science and technology awareness in middle-school girls, so that we can tap into the generation. It is our employees who take these sessions and try to generate curiosity in young girls for science and technology.

What would you suggest to emerging HR leaders, how can they be successful? What does success mean to you?

In order to be successful, you need to have the belief that you can be successful. Ordinary people can achieve priceless possibilities. To be successful, you need the ability to make decisions, you should be willing to take risks, be open to diversity and inclusion and be passionate about the business. Personally, being successful is when you know you have made an impact; when people remember you as a leader who was approachable, who had integrity and who made a difference.

Read full story

Topics: Strategic HR, Leadership, C-Suite, Talent Acquisition

Did you find this story helpful?



How do you envision AI transforming your work?

Your opinion matters: Tell us how we're doing this quarter!

Selected Score :