Harnessing the power of AI

Alumni Close-Up: Rohit Chauhan, MBA ’94

By Matthew Biddle

Rohit Chauhan.

Every time a new charge appears on your Mastercard, the company uses algorithms based on billions of transactions to determine if you really made that purchase. 

Detecting fraud is just one example of how the global technology company has leveraged artificial intelligence for more than 15 years. Using that foundation, it’s Rohit Chauhan’s job to establish Mastercard as the AI powerhouse of the future.

“The only limitation of AI is our imagination,” says Chauhan, MBA ’94, who serves as executive vice president for artificial intelligence at Mastercard. “If you think small, you will do small things with AI. If you think big, you will deliver breakthrough solutions.”

Chauhan’s innovative career began with a master’s in computer science at UB. To round out his skills, he then decided to stay for an MBA, earning his degree from the School of Management in 1994. 

“I received an excellent education at UB,” he says. “The marketing courses Dr. Arun Jain taught were simply outstanding — I still have my class notes from MGM 667 Marketing Research — and I graphically remember examples and case studies from courses on corporate finance, organizational behavior and financial investment, among others.”

In his last semester, Chauhan interned at M&T Bank — where he’d go on to spend a decade in various finance and risk management roles. 

“Near the end of the internship, a manager walked into the conference room where all the interns sat and asked for a research paper published in the Journal of Finance,” he recalls. “I volunteered and found the journal in the library that evening. The next day, I gave her a copy and a synopsis of the capital allocation methodologies it discussed. 

“I must have made an impression because on the last day of my internship, M&T offered me a job — and 25-plus years later, that manager, Michelle Moss, is still my mentor and close friend.”

Chauhan moved to Mastercard in 2006 and advanced through several leadership roles in data and analytics. As the division’s president, he set Mastercard’s data and analytics strategy, helped the division grow tenfold, and led a global team in filing more than 700 patents in five years. 

In 2018, Chauhan accepted his current role, tasked with infusing artificial intelligence into every business function within Mastercard to generate value for customers and establish the company as a leader in AI. 

Today, among other uses, Mastercard deploys AI to reduce “false declines” (when purchases are erroneously rejected), forecast future business and even predict which servers may go down before they actually do. Its AI Express platform helps clients leverage their data to solve business problems, while a partnership with nonprofit Accion is spurring community development by improving microfinance credit decisioning.

“Recruiting and retaining AI talent is my biggest challenge,” Chauhan says. “The demand for skilled AI expertise exceeds the supply by many multiples. There is a great opportunity for institutions like UB to help address this demand.”

Outside the office, Chauhan serves on the board of DataKind, a global nonprofit that harnesses the power of AI for good by helping mission-driven organizations design solutions to business and social challenges.

“With AI, you can work on a canvas that is limitless — that is the most exciting part of my job,” Chauhan says.