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Bridging the Hole: A Collaborative Strategy to Blockchain & Crypto Partnerships with Shayaan Khanna at Mastercard | by Josh Benadiva | Wharton FinTech | Nov, 2023

As just lately as 2022, it appeared as if blockchain and cryptocurrency firms had been about to reshape giant swathes of the worldwide monetary sector instantly. Nonetheless, macroeconomic shifts and company-specific missteps have spurred heated dialogue round whether or not blockchain will remodel the web, world commerce and monetary providers. Regardless of current challenges, the promise of this transformative know-how stays too nice to disregard. It’s equally true that work nonetheless must be completed to enhance the underlying infrastructure, belief and consumer expertise earlier than we onboard the following billion customers.

A few of the most vocal narratives body early-stage crypto firms in sharp opposition to present monetary incumbents. In actuality, crypto FinTechs and TradFi establishments are becoming a member of arms to ship new, modern types of commerce. Incumbents daring sufficient to embrace rising know-how exterior of their 4 partitions typically achieve an early aggressive benefit and are effectively positioned to reach the longer-term.

Shayaan Khanna leads the Blockchain Product Partnerships group at Mastercard and has taken cost of making sturdy alliances between the fee tech participant and rising enterprises within the blockchain and crypto-asset area. In a collaborative effort, Shayaan helps to bridge the hole between the normal and the modern, forging partnerships that would form the way forward for finance.

On this article with Wharton Fintech’s Josh Benadiva, Shayaan shares his ideas on the way forward for finance, his private journey into the world of blockchain, and the function that he sees Mastercard taking part in in shaping the business.

Shayaan’s curiosity in fintech started whereas he was a scholar at Wharton Enterprise College, graduating in 2020. His ardour for know-how and finance introduced him to the Penn Blockchain Membership and the Wharton Fintech Membership.

Josh Benadiva:

Why don’t you begin off by telling us about your journey into the world of FinTech, notably blockchain and cryptocurrencies, throughout your time at Wharton? How did your background in monetary markets and tech affect your resolution to concentrate on this vertical, and what had been a number of the key initiatives and experiences that formed your understanding of the potential of blockchain know-how?

Shayaan Khanna:

First off, it’s nice to be on the opposite facet of the chair — I had a good time internet hosting people on the podcast earlier than! I arrived at Wharton with an lively curiosity in monetary markets, having labored in capital markets at J.P. Morgan for a number of years. I used to be lucky to get a crash course within the fundamentals of monetary markets and tech within the workforce, so a number of the textbook materials was acquainted to me. I shortly realized I wanted to maintain constructing my craft with sensible expertise and impartial exploration. The MBA offered a major quantity of devoted time, sources and (most significantly) a supportive group to attend numerous conferences and occasions, enabling me to constantly broaden my data. The chance value of leaving a superbly good job on Wall Avenue was a relentless reminder that I needed to take advantage of out of my time in this system.

Step one was choosing a favourite vertical inside the expansive realm of FinTech. Some broad verticals are funds, funding platforms, different lending, insurtech, regtech, and, in fact, blockchain and cryptocurrency. I picked crypto as a result of it was essentially the most controversial, intriguing, community-driven and earliest stage in comparison with the others.

Certainly one of my favourite initiatives was interviewing business leaders on crypto governance for Professor Kevin Werbach. I’ve since remained in contact and have been a TA for an Government MBA course across the “Economics of Blockchain and Digital Property” for the previous yr. I’ve been capable of have interaction with lots of of scholars, desperate to find out how blockchain know-how can affect our day by day lives. It’s wonderful to see folks motivated by the chance to resolve advanced issues or the need to be part of a group that values creativity and collaboration. Those that get pleasure from engaged on blockchain are sometimes united by a shared imaginative and prescient of constructing a extra clear, environment friendly, and decentralized future. I typically discover myself in deep discussions in regards to the potential for this know-how to disrupt finance, regulation, healthcare, social governance and the creator financial system.

After graduating from Wharton, Shayaan joined BNY Mellon’s Digital Partnerships and Strategic Investments group specializing in Blockchain and Digital Property.


Are you able to share your thought course of behind selecting BNY Mellon to dive deeper into disruptive applied sciences and fintech, and the way your involvement with the crypto group inside the firm finally led to a extra centered function within the blockchain area?


Admittedly, BNY Mellon was an fascinating profession selection. I had already spent round seven years at a prime NYC financial institution and went to grad college to discover disruptive applied sciences and fintech extra deeply. BNY Mellon has been one of many main monetary establishments for 230+ years and was based by Alexander Hamilton. I knew that BNY Mellon was constructing a popularity as a market chief in each permissioned blockchain and crypto. It was additionally turning into evident that there was a necessity for trusted, institutional-grade options within the crypto custody area. Although I used to be technically masking all FinTech verticals, I discovered myself a part of a grassroots crypto group that acquired maintain of the corporate. It grew from sporadic classes to a extra centered working group, till our ragtag group may rewrite our jobs to focus solely on blockchain tech.

As curiosity in blockchain and cryptocurrency continued to blow up in 2020, many conventional monetary establishments started to discover these rising applied sciences. Throughout his time at BNY Mellon, Shayaan had a direct line to the crypto group. He helped safe a take care of Fireblocks and launched their partnership, which was one of many only a few crypto custody offers a GSIB financial institution has embarked upon.


When you accomplished the deal at BNY Mellon, it looks as if you had been longing for a brand new problem within the crypto world. How did the chance at Mastercard come up, and what excited you in regards to the prospect of making your personal function, constructing a group, and specializing in crypto, CBDCs, and digital asset tokenization?


After the deal, I felt as if I had reached the height of the mountain and was prepared for a brand new problem the place I may solely concentrate on digital belongings. The function on the blockchain partnerships group at Mastercard was on my radar, which offered me with the chance to mould my very own function. There was additionally the potential to construct a group (which occurred inside months of my becoming a member of!). Moreover, I used to be capable of concentrate on crypto, CBDCs and digital asset tokenization which had been of nice curiosity.

Because the monetary business continues to evolve, the mixing of blockchain know-how and cryptocurrencies is turning into more and more necessary. Whereas some firms have been hesitant to embrace these improvements, Mastercard has taken a proactive method to work with regulators, banks and crypto-native Fintechs.


Are you able to inform us extra about your day-to-day work? How do you handle to remain engaged and up-to-date with the fast-paced developments within the crypto business?


I discover Partnerships (typically known as Biz Dev) roles notably satisfying since you get to play a job in supporting modern startups as they create new and thrilling monetary services. It’s like being a matchmaker, however for monetary know-how! I can spend my day studying a few Seed-stage startup, serving to a big financial institution perceive blockchain tech, working with our inner stakeholders to get a deal over the road, or determining the very best GTM method for a brand new product. The countless studying that comes with working within the crypto business could be overwhelming at occasions, however the fixed problem of staying up-to-date with the most recent developments retains me engaged.

Mastercard is well-known for delivering cutting-edge applied sciences to hundreds of banks, fintechs and corporates over its historical past.

Shayaan’s group is liable for constructing relationships with rising blockchain and crypto-asset firms, and integrating their know-how into Mastercard’s present methods. By doing so, Mastercard is ready to provide its clients entry to new and modern monetary services.

The thesis behind Shayaan’s work is that there shall be a symbiotic relationship between the modern vitality of blockchain startups and the business data of Mastercard.


Are you able to focus on the significance of partnerships within the crypto business and the way they’ve developed, alongside along with your expertise launching a Begin Path observe for digital asset startups? How has your Wharton schooling knowledgeable your strategic method, and what recommendation would you give to these seeking to keep up to date on this area?


I consider crypto and blockchain applied sciences have a protracted technique to go earlier than mass adoption. Like different rising applied sciences, there may be room to enhance consumer expertise and safety. I consider that a number of the key infrastructure shall be constructed by way of partnership between incumbents and cutting-edge tech suppliers. Established gamers who embrace ecosystem innovation would be the ones finest positioned to seize the upside. I consider joint approaches akin to Fireblocks-BNY Mellon, and Blackrock-Coinbase convey collectively the very best of each worlds on the funding facet. One other instance is the MoneyGram-Stellar deal, which demonstrates the potential for cross-border funds which are quicker, cheaper, and safer than ever earlier than.

Startups are more and more subtle of their negotiation and outreach. That stated, I nonetheless consider working with established gamers can typically bolster their go-to-market technique and assist them launch in a number of markets, reaching a a lot wider viewers than they could be capable to on their very own.

Narratives inside bigger firms have additionally shifted from a easy white-label relationship and vanilla companion applications to co-creation of merchandise and extra advanced strategic finance buildings. Mastercard is well-known for its award-winning startup engagement program known as Begin Path. Mastercard has engaged with greater than 350 firms from 42 international locations since 2014. I co-led the creation of a crypto-specific observe that may finest serve the distinctive wants of the business and can be focused at earlier-stage firms. We are sometimes challenged to suppose exterior the field to offer options to market members who’re both early of their lifecycle or getting into a comparatively uncharted facet of the business.

Initially, I had reservations when Professor Siggelkow (strongly advocate his class, by the way in which) asserted the essence of technique is selecting what not to do. Nonetheless, in my skilled profession I’ve realized to articulate and follow an intentional method to stipulate the tradeoffs of every strategic selection. It’s fairly simple to unfold one’s consideration and sources too skinny throughout numerous interesting choices. Thankfully, at Mastercard now we have pretty sturdy product validation processes from thought conception to launch. I’ve typically discovered myself interviewing Fortune 100 manufacturers, fee facilitators, crypto wallets and NFT platforms to get their suggestions firsthand on how one can fine-tune a product thought.

I might encourage college students (and lifelong college students!) to learn our weblog to find out how we’re remaining a trusted companion to innovate with, regardless of all of the current uncertainty within the business.

See right here for Mastercard’s blockchain and cryptocurrency weblog:

Because the monetary business continues to evolve, it’s clear that firms like Mastercard will play an more and more necessary function in shaping its future. With Shayaan Khanna taking part in a job in main the cost, it appears that evidently Mastercard is well-positioned to stay on the forefront of this innovation.

About Shayaan Khanna

Shayaan Khanna is a fintech fanatic and leads crypto and blockchain partnerships at Mastercard. He’s labored in institutional capital markets and fintech, growing merchandise and managing key consumer relationships at each J.P. Morgan and BNY Mellon.

Shayaan graduated with an MBA from Wharton in 2020. Whereas at Wharton, he was an lively member of Penn’s fintech and crypto group (together with being a number on Wharton FinTech Podcast). He enjoys exploring breakthrough applied sciences, driving change by innovation and constructing relationships throughout business.

In regards to the Writer

Joshua Benadiva is a second-year MBA Candidate at The Wharton College and a second-year Grasp’s in Laptop and Info Expertise Candidate at Penn Engineering. He’s the co-head of the Wharton FinTech Podcast group, and he has a ardour for constructing enjoyable and easy-to-use merchandise and fixing important monetary issues by software program. Don’t hesitate to succeed in out with questions, feedback, suggestions, and alternatives for Josh at benadiva@wharton.upenn.edu.

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