Executive profile: Solana Cozzo, Mastercard
It’s a good thing Solana (“Sol”) Cozzo is high energy. When she’s not literally running or chasing after 3-year-old twins, she’s running Mastercard’s North American prepaid and inclusive growth business.
It’s hard work when you consider that “the cardable opportunity is about seven times the current market,” she says.
“Even in the U.S. and Canada, this is a nascent space.”
That greenfield opportunity is largely what drew the Argentinian, who’d been living in Miami, to Purchase, N.Y.
“What excites me is the potential to penetrate untapped flows of money, particularly in the digital space,” she adds. “We get to work with new startups, fintechs and digital giants in addition to our existing prepaid partners across the whole value chain.”
Ready to Go Viral
Prior to taking on her current role, Cozzo led Mastercard’s prepaid, personal payments and financial inclusion business in Latin America. But it wasn’t her first foray into prepaid. Before joining Mastercard in 2012, she launched the Citi Prepaid Services business (now part of Wirecard) in various markets in Latin America.
As is happening with mobile payments in emerging markets, Cozzo expects prepaid to take off as “a digital virtual account versus just a plastic card.”
|In Her Own Words
Prepaid’s role in fintech is POSSIBILITIES
My gotta-have mobile app is STARBUCKS
My favorite place in the world is BARBADOS
And, although there’s a significant physical card base in the U.S. and Canada, generating around $295 billion in open-loop prepaid volume in 2016 (Mercator), Cozzo says that digital is a part of every pitch for prepaid solutions in North America, as well. “We’re designing the next-generation of products that are digital first,” she says.
While part of her job means transitioning some of those existing payment flows—general purpose, payroll, gift, incentives—from physical only to the digital space, she also hints at new “engagement models” for consumers who want to buy content or services inside mobile apps but may not have credit cards. She’s not quite ready to name names when it comes to some of Mastercard’s partners for those “next-gen” solutions yet but says, “Our strategy is for the future.”
Cozzo started her career at Philip Morris after studying industrial engineering at the Catholic University of Argentina. She later earned her executive master’s in business at Columbia University and began a global rotational program with Citi that began in Brazil. She worked across businesses and functions at Citi from retail banking to credit cards to treasury and trade solutions. One of her first stints at Citi was running a branch in Uptown West, Manhattan.
That experience, as well as the early advice of a mentor, proved instrumental in Cozzo’s career trajectory.
“Manage a P&L and people early on, and always understand what’s on consumers’ minds,” she recalls. Those three pieces of advice have been invaluable to her, Cozzo says. That “third leg of the stool,” about understanding consumers continues to be a critical component of what she does day to day.
Having a great mentor also led her to become a mentor herself. While at Citi, she was founding co-chair of the Citi Women and Citi Hispanic Networks.
She currently serves on the president’s council and advisory committee of Venture Lab at Accion International and is on the board of Accion North America—a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating economic opportunity by connecting people to the financial tools they need to improve their lives.
It’s a perfect complement to her work on prepaid and inclusive growth. “Prepaid at Mastercard is a core product,” she says, pointing to the company’s longtime emphasis in the space. “The thing that excites me is the social aspect. Prepaid is the financial product that brings people access to possibilities.”