IBM Impact 2012: MasterCard fights fraud with IBM tech

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MasterCard has made it safer and speedier for consumers to use its payments system thanks to a partnership with IBM that enables new products, such as regulatory and fraud-fighting tech, to be added to its network quickly and easily.

We pack more than 100 pieces of information into that message. Then it starts its journey to the network. It doesn't leave any time for error.

Previously, creating new products with rules and logic to apply to certain situations or patterns of behaviour could take weeks, months or years to develop, approve and embed. However, now, the payments giant can do so in a matter of hours for new rules, and mere months or less for new products.

"We need that platform in order for us to innovate," Johan Gerber, group head, of processing product management at MasterCard's global network products division told delegates at IBM Impact today in Las Vegas.

"Innovation is what we need for differentiation. Staying ahead of the competition is key"

MasterCard's network has to support 1.7 billion consumers, across 22 financial institutions and some 32 million merchants. Coupled with this volume of 'users' transactions can be carried out in 150 currencies across 210 countries.

The average speed of a transaction is just 130 milliseconds and the system has to be able to cope with 43,000 transactions per second, according to Gerber.

"We pack more than 100 pieces of information into that message. Then it starts its journey to the network. It doesn't leave any time for error. Protection and security are critical for us. We can't afford for the network to go down. Even our network's backup has a backup," he said, adding that the system is capable of handling as many as 14 billion instructions every second.

"We have established a technology layer with its roots into our network. It begins feeding in from our data warehouses and other areas. [Working with IBM] we have created a layer on which we can position new and innovative products. The foundation is safe, secure and stable."

If you took the data housed in its data warehouse and placed on bookshelves, these shelves would stretch more than 54,000 miles, Gerber said.

MasterCard has a history of working with IBM, having previously deployed WebSphere, specifically its Message Broker and ILOG functionality. The new technology layer created by this partnership went live in February this year and, since then, the company has been able to implement new business rules management and transactional blocking capabilities.

"How do we innovate within an environment like this? We can now provide thought leadership to the industry and do new things much faster," Gerber added.

"We dream big. If we can get all of this right maybe our future and the future of shopping might look [very different]."

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.