May 6, 2021

Inside the Mind of Miguel Gamino Jr. of Mastercard, Executive Vice President for Global Cities

Epidemics have shaped the development of urban settings – the plague in Athens, the Black Death in Rome, and Cholera outbreaks in the 1800s in London and New York.   As society wrestles the effects of this pandemic, the world is reimaging on what life will look like Post-COVID including how cities, which comprise over half of the world’s population, will be affected in the near and long-term.  Today, we chat with Miguel Gamino Jr., Executive Vice President for Global Cities at Mastercard, where he leads Global Cities and City Possible, connecting academia, government, and industry to foster inclusive sustainable urban development that’s reshaping the world we live in today and setting the foundation for tomorrow.

No stranger to the intersection of technology and government, Gamino previously served as the CTO of the City of New York and the CIO for both the cities of San Francisco and El Paso. He was kind enough to join us to provide some candid insight into the meaningful work that Mastercard is doing in New York and globally to address some of the challenges that cities face through partnerships, innovation, and data.

Please tell us a little bit about background and how/why you got to where you are today.

I lead our Global Cities work at Mastercard and our global initiative, City Possible. This unique global network of over 180 cities convenes leaders with academia and industry partners dedicated to advancing inclusive and sustainable urban development through collaboration.

Prior to joining Mastercard in 2018, I served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of New York City and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of San Francisco and El Paso. Before joining public service, I launched a number of tech startups.

Whether as an entrepreneur, public servant or corporate executive, I’ve always been invested in building a culture of empathy and learning how to make tech work for people. I believe that regardless of one’s nationality or language, people around the world have similar dreams, talents, and aspirations – above all else, everyone wants to create a better life for themselves and for others. I’m always looking for ways to support this collective ambition through my work.

How did your previous role as CTO of New York City and in other municipalities prepare you for the work that you do today? 

Serving the public and navigating city government to get things done prepared me for this role because I identified with Mastercard’s mission to find new ways to implement innovations equitably for the advancement of more inclusive communities. When I served as CTO of NYC, we advocated for broadband access to ensure that all New Yorkers had equal and fair access to the internet, an essential utility, and the benefits that come with using it. Making this a reality required buy-in from many stakeholder groups in the community – including government leaders, community advocates, public representatives, academia, and the private sector. This framework continues to inform my work at Mastercard and how we engage with city and local communities today.

Please tell us about some of the projects that you are excited about that Mastercard is working on.

We have a broad portfolio of projects on the horizon that make me excited for the future of this company. We have built a diversified and differentiated business model and are seeing increased momentum as the shift to digital accelerates in this crisis. For instance, we are helping small businesses embrace the trend by equipping them with enhanced digital capabilities and expanding our services to meet our partners’ evolving needs, whether it be data insights or cybersecurity offerings. We also continue to prioritize and advocate for a culture of decency. At Mastercard, we have worked for many years to promote inclusion and equality, but we still have more to do to confront and combat racism in all its forms. I am excited that the very top level of the organization has prioritized a renewed focus on standing against racism and advancing equal opportunity for all focusing on the impact that we must drive for our employees, the market, and for society at large.

Mastercard pioneered the City Possible initiative. Please tell us more about this.

City Possible is Mastercard’s partnership and co-creation framework to foster inclusive growth within cities – and ultimately building more resilient communities. It enables members to draw on the collective expertise and resources of all stakeholders in order to scale innovative solutions to urban challenges. For instance, we provide network members access to City Insights data insights in order to inform policy and program development and deploy our technology to help them provide aid to those impacted by this crisis. More specifically, in 10 cities across the U.S., we are leveraging Mastercard Donation Solutions and Mastercard City Key to help accelerate the fundraising and distribution of aid to those most in need.

Why is NYC important to Mastercard’s strategic focus?

We have a long-standing relationship with the city of New York – both as an employer and a business partner. We opened our first-ever Tech Hub in NYC back in 2014 – we now have eight across the globe! – and actively work to engage with the local tech community, particularly in areas like AI and blockchain, and the broader fintech industry. Any innovation that relates to critical regulated infrastructure like payments requires partnership and collaboration across the industry. Having a presence in the heart of the world’s financial capital sets us up for success. New York City attracts some of the world’s most diverse talent that are critical to our long-term success and aligned with our culture of inclusivity.

As one of the first and deeply impacted cities in the US by the pandemic, New York has a long road to recovery.  What is Mastercard doing to support the reopening at a governmental level?

Mastercard has made a long-standing commitment to inclusive growth and built an ecosystem that prioritizes commercially sustainable social impact. “Doing well by doing good” is more than a motto for us. This foundation has enabled the company to mobilize efficiently to help government leaders assess, respond, and recover from the pandemic. We’re using our insights and capabilities to provide real-time responses to protect against increased cyber risks and fraud threats. And we have ensured that physical and digital commerce is simpler, safer, and secure, through initiatives such as increased contactless payment limits, helping businesses move their services online, and extending timelines for refund requests.

Recognizing that New York City, our backyard, was hit hard very early on, we’ve been doing a lot of work specifically with local leaders in the city. Here are a few examples I’m most proud of:

  • Building on our longstanding partnership with Lyft, we expanded access to essential transportation and delivery services to low-income seniors, and families and children while schools are closed. We also worked with Citi Bank to commit $1 million to expand the critical workforce membership program aimed at providing essential workers a safe way to commute to work. The expansion allows more essential workers to use Citi Bikes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On the data front – a core part of our business – we are helping city leaders measure economic impact: Leveraging Mastercard City Insights, we are granting civic leaders access to anonymized and aggregated data-driven insights to help them assess the impact of COVID-19; protect families, communities, and businesses that are most at-risk; and proactively build a foundation to prepare for recovery. New York City leaders utilize City Insights to estimate the sales tax revenue impact in order to inform budget planning and recovery programs. As NYC transitions to recovery, these insights will help target relief efforts to specific industries and geographies that need the most support.
  • Working with the Mayors Fund to Advance New York City and the city itself, we are helping increase the speed and efficacy of aid disbursement for communities and business segments that need it most by leveraging Mastercard City Key, as well as developing donation platforms to enable emergency fundraising.

What about at the business level?  Any insights you can share on use of technology and contactless payments during COVID?

Obviously, retail was hit hard by this pandemic. In New York City, retail sales were down 44 percent in March. Policymakers needed to understand how the steep decline in consumer spending would impact the city’s sales tax revenue in order to adjust their budgets. And we were able to help them. Mastercard “Geographic Insights” identified spending pattern changes in specific neighborhoods (all data anonymized and aggregated, of course). This helped inform budget planning, optimize aid disbursement, understand which merchants are open for business, and prioritize investment to support those most impacted by the pandemic.

Another interesting trend you mention is the rise of contactless payments – a technology that we pioneered years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated the deployment of contactless technology and driven a surge in contactless transactions. And history tells us this type of behavior change is likely to stick. Consumers are increasingly moving away from cash and opting for contact-free and digital payments experiences. Mastercard saw a 40% jump in contactless payments — including tap-to-pay and mobile pay — during the first quarter of this year alone.

Obviously, retail was hit hard by this pandemic. In New York City, retail sales were down 44 percent in March. Policymakers needed to understand how the steep decline in consumer spending would impact the city’s sales tax revenue in order to adjust their budgets. And we were able to help them. Mastercard “Geographic Insights” identified spending pattern changes in specific neighborhoods (all data anonymized and aggregated, of course). This helped inform budget planning, optimize aid disbursement, understand which merchants are open for business, and prioritize investment to support those most impacted by the pandemic.

Another interesting trend you mention is the rise of contactless payments – a technology that we pioneered years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated the deployment of contactless technology and driven a surge in contactless transactions. And history tells us this type of behavior change is likely to stick. Consumers are increasingly moving away from cash and opting for contact-free and digital payments experiences. Mastercard saw a 40% jump in contactless payments — including tap-to-pay and mobile pay — during the first quarter of this year alone.

How does Mastercard work to ensure that these city programs are inclusive and meeting the needs of the city’s population – one that is extremely diverse in terms of opportunity and socio-economic factors?

We need to reimagine what growth means for everyone in today’s digital economy. That means understanding the needs of the most vulnerable and customizing solutions that work for them. I believe more tech founders should be building with inclusion and access in mind from the start – and the tech industry must find ways to incentive this. By making inclusion and accessibility a competitive differentiator, we can change the future of urban innovation.

As more of the economy shifts to digital, it is in the business interest of the private sector – and our social responsibility – to ensure that people and organizations have access to the networks, tools, and solutions that can help them reach their potential and achieve financial security.

As you focus on working with some of the cutting-edge cities in the world in terms of use of technology and data to make cities smart, where does New York City rank?  What can be done to ensure that NYC is leading the way from both the private and public sector perspective?

I frequently get the question “Which city is the smartest?” But that’s overly simplistic. Some cities are more evolved in certain areas, like transit or broadband access, but weaker in utilization of data.

The fact remains: New York City attracts some of the world’s best talent and has encouraged a pervasive culture of innovation. I personally don’t think the pandemic will change that long term. In fact, I believe this is an opportunity for the best cities in the world – megacities and smaller cities alike – will have an opportunity to build stronger communities. History has shown that cities, and New York City in particular, are able to bounce back from crises due to their ability to attract and maintain a competitive workforce and drive innovation. Cities will transform, adapt, and innovate toward a healthier and more resilient future.

The fact remains: New York City attracts some of the world’s best talent and has encouraged a pervasive culture of innovation. I personally don’t think the pandemic will change that long term. In fact, I believe this is an opportunity for the best cities in the world – megacities and smaller cities alike – will have an opportunity to build stronger communities. History has shown that cities, and New York City in particular, are able to bounce back from crises due to their ability to attract and maintain a competitive workforce and drive innovation. Cities will transform, adapt, and innovate toward a healthier and more resilient future.

The pandemic and subsequent economic impact left many talented and skilled New Yorkers and Americans suddenly out of work. Mastercard is currently hiring. What types of roles are you presently recruiting for?

Our payments infrastructure, applications, and services are the fabric of a thriving economy – and have been essential during this global crisis, as more people have turned to contactless payments and e-commerce. Making that possible takes a diverse workforce that can build, scale, and secure those digital solutions globally. All of our global Tech Hubs, including NYC, are still hiring for key tech roles in areas like cybersecurity, software engineering, technical program management, and product management. We’re always looking for people with the right skills, who share our belief in doing well by doing good.

While urbanization has been a dominating theme across the globe since the end of World War II, the rapid transformation to remote work as a result of the pandemic has made many questions the need to have offices and to be located in major metropolises.  Do you have any initial thoughts and data on what we can expect in terms of the growth of cities?

For the past 10 years, cities were grappling with rapid urbanization with 70% of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050. The pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to municipal budgets and we’ve seen many people with the means leaving top-tier cities during the first wave. However, whether this is a permanent change is still to be determined.

Density has been a cornerstone of urban planning for generations – increasing convenience and access for their residents as well as creating more sustainable communities. But with density and overcrowding, due to the high cost of housing among other contributing factors, now posing a prominent health risk, it runs counter to the urban policies and innovations that have encouraged interconnectivity for decades. Now, people are avoiding crowded public spaces like the subway, elevators, shared offices, and communal living and settling into working from home.

However, we have yet to realize the long-term impact of the pandemic on urbanization and migration trends. Over the long course of history, cities have weathered all manner of pandemics and economic crashes, not to mention natural and unnatural disasters like wars, hurricanes, and earthquakes, none of which has permanently staunched their long-term growth.

This moment in time underscores the need to rebuild our cities, economy, and society in ways that are better, more just, more inclusive, and more resilient.

In 10 years, what does NYC look like and how does that differ from what we have today’?

Over the past decade or so we’ve witnessed growing racial and economic inequality; escalating housing prices, and hyper-gentrification have pushed out minorities, working-class and middle-class people of leading cities. This is very pronounced in NYC – and we’re seeing the impact in areas like the Bronx where there’s overcrowding.

NYC will remain a destination for those seeking refuge, opportunity, and a better future. While the pandemic will have an impact on migration patterns and the way we think about designing this city, this place will continue to be a center of media, finance, and entertainment; the infrastructure is firmly in place to advance those fields and attract the best talent to them.

I’m certain the next wave of “unicorns” that we’ll be talking about in 10 years will have been started during this pandemic. I’m also certain that some of them will have been born in New York City. I’m hopeful. I think the ideas being formed now will help shape the future in cities around the world, and do so in a way that is inclusive, accessible, and prosperous for people across the entire socioeconomic spectrum.

When you put on your headphones and need to get head down in something, what are you listening to?

Jay Z, with some Swizz Beatz sprinkled on top.

What’s your favorite outdoor restaurant in the City?

Difficult to choose just one but must Morgan’s Barbecue in Brooklyn takes me back to my Texas roots.


Mastercard has been transforming how people pay and get paid for more than 50 years. Guided by a commitment to innovation, Mastercard helps businesses grow, improves the consumer payments experience, and advances a more inclusive financial system around the globe. Fostering a culture of innovation is critical to success and Mastercard attracts talented people with curious minds and big ideas across eight global tech hubs, including in the heart of NYC. Mastercard is also committed to working with developers and entrepreneurs, enabling advances in the payments ecosystem of the future. Learn more about innovation and life at Mastercard here.


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