Google hires PayPal veteran to reset financial services and go deeper into crypto

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The move is part of a broader strategy to partner with a broader range of financial services, including cryptocurrencies, said Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce. The company, known for the Google Pay system and mobile wallet, has largely avoided the crypto industry.

The changes follow a major U-turn in October. Google had spent years planning a digital checking and savings service, lining up 11 banking partners for the launch. But that month, the company rejected the proposed deal, called Plex. Instead, Google wants to become the connective tissue for the entire consumer credit industry, not just certain partners, according to Ready.

“We are not a bank – we have no intention of being a bank,” Ready said in an interview. “Some past efforts, sometimes, unwittingly floundered in these spaces.”

Given Google’s dominance in search and other online services, it was long expected to shake up the world of finance. But he has little to show for his efforts so far. Google Pay has gained ground in India, but struggled elsewhere. It’s way behind Apple Inc.’s payment platform, and Google hasn’t created its own credit card or financial products like Apple did.

But Google has huge consumer reach and a huge balance sheet. The tech giant does not charge any fees on transactions with its mobile wallet, and Ready said there are no plans to change that. Google is also working to add more payment features to search and its shopping service. This will help show users “the full range of financial services available,” Ready said.

“Our goal is to help build connections,” he said. “We are not a disputing party.”

Ready, the former chief operating officer of PayPal, joined Google in 2019 and began overseeing its payments division last year after an executive left. He recruited Goldberg, who ran PayPal’s merchant business, to become vice president and general manager of payments and emerging markets efforts — an initiative Google calls Next Billion Users, or NBU.

Ready is also promoting Peeyush Ranjan, a veteran engineer who led efforts to grow Google Pay in India, naming him general manager of consumer payment services.

Google launched its payments app in 2015 and revamped it in late 2020 as a hub for consumers to track spending and find discounts. At the time, the company said the app had 150 million monthly active users worldwide. But Google’s wallet faces fierce competition, even on devices running its Android operating system. Samsung Electronics Co., the biggest seller of smartphones, has its own payment system.

Tom Noyes, an industry analyst, estimated in 2020 that Google accounted for 4% of contactless payments in the US, calling the service “largely a failure”.

As part of the overhaul, Google will focus more on being a “complete digital wallet” that includes digital tickets, plane passes and vaccine passports, Ready said. He did not provide an update on the current number of Google Pay users.

The company integrates payments more tightly with Google’s shopping efforts, such as a feature that displays consumer loyalty cards and personal discounts directly in search results. Google is also trying to position itself as more merchant-friendly than Amazon.com Inc. In 2020, Google removed fees for retailers selling on its shopping service.

The absence of commissions on Google Pay is part of the same philosophy. The company hopes that enough people will find value in its payment services to continue searching and buying on Google properties, not elsewhere. “Helping more business on a free and open web – that naturally pays dividends across our business,” Ready said.

Tiptoeing into crypto could also help Google attract users. Google has partnered with companies including Coinbase Global Inc. and BitPay Inc. to store crypto assets in digital cards, while allowing users to pay in traditional currencies. Ready said Google is looking to do more of these partnerships, though the company still doesn’t accept crypto for transactions.

“Cryptography is something we pay a lot of attention to,” he said. “As user demand and merchant demand evolve, we will evolve with it.”

Goldberg, Ready’s new deputy, fills a position vacated by Caesar Sengupta, a longtime Google executive who left the company last year. Sengupta has since formed a new fintech company, Arbo Works, and hired several other people from Google’s payments team.

Ready sees these departures as normal business turnover. He declined to share the workforce, but said the payments division is “growing in a very healthy way.”

This story was published from a news feed with no text edits. Only the title has been changed.

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