Ajay Banga, one of the most prominent bankers from India, has been appointed as the President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of MasterCard Incorporated, the world's second-biggest card network after Visa. Banga, who is currently Citi's Asia-Pacific CEO, will report to MasterCard President and CEO Robert W. Selander. Banga, who has been with Citi for 13 years, joins MasterCard on August 31, 2009, when Selander will give up the Presidents job but continue as CEO.

Banga, 49, is being seen as the successor to Selander for MasterCard's top job, and the move is a precussor to that. Banga will be paid around $2.15 million in salary and other allowances every year, with a one time benefit totaling about $15.9 million including a sign-on bonus of about $4.2 million and restricted stock of $4.9 million, according to reports.

Banga, a star in Citi responsible for bringing in a third of the banks revenues, was responsible for all of Citi's business lines in the region including credit cards and consumer banking, institutional banking, wealth management and alternative investments. He is also a part of the Citi's Senior Leadership and Executive Committees.

Banga's exit comes as Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit said last week that the bank is looking for overseas opportunities for growth. While Banga's new employer MasterCard did not need any US government bailout money, the government is taking a 34% stake in Citigroup for its $45 billion bailout. As Citi is a reciever of government aid, this puts restrictions on salaries of its top executives, especially bonuses.

Asia is Citi's fastest growing markets and the flight of top talent will certainly impact its operations in the region. Some of Citi's top executives in India have also departed in the last one year. Sanjay Nayar, who was CEO for Citigroup-India, left to head to PE major KKR's India office last year.  Earlier Ajay Relan, head of Citi's PE arm in India left to set up his own fund.

In his new job at MasterCard, Banga will be responsible for key business operations including customer relationships globally, products, services, marketing, technology and operations.

Banga joined Citi in 1996 as Head of Marketing and Sales in India, quickly rose through the ranks to Head of Sales, Marketing and Business Development for Europe, Middle East and Africa, based in Brussels, and was then appointed Division Executive, Consumer Bank for Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, based in London.

In 2000 he was appointed Business Head, CitiFinancial and U.S. Consumer Assets, and in 2002 became Executive Vice President, Global Consumer Group and President, Retail Banking North America.

He was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Citi's Global Consumer Group International in 2005, which included all credit card and consumer banking operations outside North America. He was appointed to his current position in 2008.

Before joining Citigroup, Banga was with Nestle India and PepsiCo. He graduated with a BA in Economics Honors from Delhi University and is also a graduate of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

"Ajay's experience in diverse industries and diverse geographies will reinforce and strengthen our global competencies as electronic payments continue to accelerate worldwide. With his expertise and leadership we hope to capture even more of the significant global payments opportunity," Selander said in a release.

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