April 15, 2010, 12:00 AM

MasterCard launches a payments lab that could boost its online offerings

MasterCard Worldwide today said it has established a research and development arm. The unit could boost the payment card network’s offerings for online retail payments.

MasterCard Worldwide said today it has established a research and development arm, MasterCard Labs. The unit could boost the payment card network’s offerings for online retail payments.

The payment card network plans to use the unit to design and bring to market payment offerings more quickly than MasterCard does now. Garry Lyons, MasterCard’s group executive, research and development, will oversee the unit, effective April 30. Lyons was previously CEO of Orbiscom, a payment technology provider that MasterCard bought in December 2008. One service Orbiscom offered was a single-use virtual payment card number that online shoppers could use to avoid giving their card details online.

“Our customers are eager to see and experience what’s next in payments and, more importantly, what resonates with consumers,” says Josh Peirez, group executive of innovative platforms, MasterCard. “Under Garry’s leadership, the MasterCard Labs team will partner closely with our Innovative Products team to quickly produce the industry-leading solutions they are looking for.”

MasterCard would not detail what products the unit might tackle first, but a spokeswoman says MasterCard Labs would undertake work in payment offerings that could appeal to online shoppers.

The announcement comes the same week as MasterCard’s launch of MasterCard MarketPlace, an online mall with more than 28,000 merchants, that MasterCard. MasterCard says its MarketPlace is an attempt to establish a stronger position among online shoppers.

Rivals American Express Inc., through its Daily Wish discount offer, and Visa Inc., via its new Rightcliq payments and comparison shopping service, also have taken steps to play a bigger role in online payments.

The launch of MasterCard Labs, along with MarketPlace, could signal a focus by the card network on the online retail space, especially as president and chief operating officer Ajay Banga prepares to take over as CEO on July 1, says Steve Mott, a payments consultant with BetterBuyDesign.

“This is a breath of fresh air for those of us disappointed that the last regime at MasterCard saw its significant innovations in stored value, contactless and mobile payments lose momentum,” he says. “Labs suggests that the new CEO might actually be inclined to add some tangible value to a digital marketplace craving innovative solutions.”

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