- MasterCard officials told Reuters the card company is close to formally applying to become a payments service provider in China, after the Chinese government last month announced new rules enabling foreign payment providers to enter the market.
- New entrants into the market are required to meet China's national security and cybersecurity standards, and also are required to invest 1 billion yuan (roughly $150 million) in registered capital in a local company. "We're trying to understand the rules," said Ann Cairns, MasterCard's president of international markets. "Certain things inside the rules—such as the new cyber rules, which need more development and understanding about how they’re going to work."
- MasterCard is still mulling whether to enter China alone or with a partner, executives added.
The Chinese payments market, currently dominated by a government-run entity, is worth about $8.25 trillion, and is expected to become the world's largest market for card payments by 2020.
MasterCard and Visa have been campaigning for the right to enter China for a long time, so the new rules allowing them access to the world's most populous country are hugely significant to their future prospects, especially as China increasingly becomes a land of consumers.
But as many companies in many different industries that were granted similar access can tell them, they must not rush in. A number of Chinese markets traditionally have been dominated by state-run companies, and that is the toughest sort of market incumbency for any company to challenge.
Also, as MasterCard and other payments companies strive to meet the requirements for Chinese market entry, they also need to understand some of the fine print amid the new rules to be sure there aren't more strings attached than they might have anticipated. They need to give just as much consideration to that all-important local partner, how the partnership will proceed and how much control they will have over it.
MasterCard seems to understand the new rules are just the first step to tapping into China. The company has not committed to a date by which it will apply for market entry, and for the most part is acting like it's not under pressure to do so. But you can bet it would like to chance to chase that $8.25 trillion market opportunity sooner rather than later.