Tough Challenges, New Possibilities: interview with Blake Rosenthal

Welcome to ‘Tough Challenges, New Possibilities’, the interview series that asks world-class business advisors and executives to reflect on success and key challenges for small businesses in difficult times. We spoke to Blake Rosenthal, a leader with over two decades of experience in the banking industry executing growth strategies and business development.

About Blake Rosenthal

Executive Vice-President and Global Head of Acceptance Solutions, Mastercard

Blake Rosenthal is executive vice president of Acceptance Solutions for Mastercard. She also serves on the company’s management committee. Before joining Mastercard, Blake was a senior account executive at Visa, and prior to that, she spent 11 years at Citibank in a variety of leadership roles across the U.S. and international consumer banks. She is on the steering committee of the 30% Club, a group of business leaders committed to advancing gender balance at all levels of their organisations through voluntary actions.

Blake Rosenthal

What’s the biggest challenge small businesses face coming out of the pandemic?

Small firms form the backbone of our local economies and communities, representing nearly 90% of businesses, employing 70% of all workers and delivering half of global GDP. COVID-19 has unsurprisingly had a huge impact with one in five small businesses having closed. Now, their challenges are about getting paid, getting digital, and getting capital. We’ve committed $350m of financial technology products to help small businesses and are investing hugely in financial inclusion and female empowerment projects.

How can technology enable small businesses to make a difference?

For half a century, Mastercard has been transforming how people pay and get paid. We believe technology is critical for small businesses and our commitment to innovation includes supporting businesses through the consumer payment experience and building a more inclusive financial system. We’re working to build a business economy that connects everyone everywhere through transactions that are simple, smart and accessible. Small businesses need to become digital-first, data-driven and security-centred.

Blake Rosenthal

Where will the greatest gains be made for small businesses over the next decade?

Tremendous advances in innovation will enable small businesses to get paid, get digital and get capital almost seamlessly. This needs to happen because savvy young entrepreneurs emerging from the pandemic will be looking for the right solutions to make their businesses better. In America, we still check out in restaurants by signing a paper ticket and there’s a lot of waiting involved. All these interactions will be streamlined. There will be much more use of payment by phones and other mobile device. Tap on Phone (ToP), an acceptance solution that turns an Android mobile device into a point-of-sale device that accepts contactless payments, is the perfect example of how we’re helping every business get paid.

What’s been your biggest business challenge?

Getting everyone comfortable with the fact that although you may have been doing something a certain way for a decade, you’re now going to have to do it slightly differently. I’ve led with that in my career and it’s been very satisfying. I was working for Citibank in Manhattan during 9/11 when I was 23. Everything shut down and the customers were understandably hysterical. I had to decide what to do for the business, employees and the customers. Being the leader in that moment shaped who I am.

And your biggest personal challenge?

Realising there’s no such thing as a work-life balance. You have to make choices about which places to go, and what meetings you’ll attend, and be 100% present at whatever you choose. If you’re at a school play, stay off your phone. If you’re in Singapore when your child’s school calls, direct them to someone else. There was an occasion when my son had his first sleep-away camp one week but I wanted to attend a work meeting in Portugal. I had scheduled everything so I was able to do both but the flight back was cancelled and I missed his send-off experience. You never get those moments back. I learned that you can’t do everything and you have to make time for your choice.

Where will the greatest gains be made for small businesses over the next decade?

Tremendous advances in innovation will enable small businesses to get paid, get digital and get capital almost seamlessly. This needs to happen because savvy young entrepreneurs emerging from the pandemic will be looking for the right solutions to make their businesses better. In America, we still check out in restaurants by signing a paper ticket and there’s a lot of waiting involved. All these interactions will be streamlined. There will be much more use of payment by phones and other mobile device. Tap on Phone (ToP), an acceptance solution that turns an Android mobile device into a point-of-sale device that accepts contactless payments, is the perfect example of how we’re helping every business get paid.

To read more of Blake Rosenthal’s insights, check out the full interview below.

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