Financial institutions count on these credit-card transactions to tell a story, which provides information for targeted marketing or business planning. For example, a bank issuing credit cards might notice that many cardholders use their MasterCard accounts to charge flights on a specific airline. The bank then can strike a deal with the airline to offer special offers and incentives to cardholders.
Although it's not pure data mining--MasterCard stresses that it adds human intelligence to the mix by having in-house analysts review the data--Alkhalaf describes the process as a form of data mining. Each tool reports, extracts and summarizes the information it plucks from the data warehouse.
"It's a way we can observe cubes of data and drill down into them," he says. "The actual magic comes from our statistical analysis team, which figures out trends based on what's gleaned from the information."