Tech

Google abandons plans to offer bank accounts to users

Key Points
  • Google is scrapping plans to offer bank accounts with financial partners such as Citigroup.
  • The company said it will focus "primarily on delivering digital enablement for banks and other financial services providers rather than us serving as the provider of these services."
  • Former Google vice president who oversaw the project began his own financial tech company, hiring many of his staff away from Google.
Google Pay
Omar Marques | LightRocket | Getty Images

Google is scrapping its plans to offer banking services directly to users.

The shift comes nearly two years after the company first announced its banking plans and several months after a key executive leading the project departed.

In 2020, Google said it would let users open a bank account through its Google Pay app, in a partnership with Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union beginning in 2021. At the time, Google said it would offer a service called "Plex" checking and savings accounts that would have no monthly fees, overdraft charges or minimum balance requirements. Users would have also been able to request a physical debit card, which would have run on Mastercard's network, the company told CNBC at the time. 

The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the scrapped plans Friday, stating a series of reportedly missed deadlines along with the departure of the Google Pay executive overseeing the project caused it to begin to fold. 

A Google spokesperson confirmed the report to CNBC but declined to comment on the executive's departure effect.

"Our work with our partners has made it extremely clear that there's consumer demand for simple, seamless and secure digital payments for online and in-store transactions," the Google spokesperson told CNBC in an email. "We're updating our approach to focus primarily on delivering digital enablement for banks and other financial services providers rather than us serving as the provider of these services."

Google's cloud unit has also made financial services one of its main customer focus areas.

While banks have expressed fear that tech giants will seek to invade consumer finance as they have done with other industries like media and advertising, so far the threat has barely materialized.

Amazon had reportedly explored offering bank accounts to its customers in 2018, a project that has yet to materialize. Uber reined in its fintech ambitions last year with the departure of executive Peter Hazlehurst. Facebook had to rebrand its crypto project amid a series of setbacks.

A notable exception is Apple, which successfully launched a credit card in 2019 with Goldman Sachs and is reportedly exploring a buy now, pay later product with the bank.

Caesar Sengupta, former Google vice president and general manager of Google payments and "Next Billion Users," told CNBC in 2020 that the company was "looking to make banking more relevant for the mobile-first generation," as an explanation for its banking plans.

Sengupta left Google in March to start his own financial tech company called Arbo Works, according to his LinkedIn. Since then, he's appeared to recruit several longtime Google workers to his company, according to LinkedIn and Arbo Works' website.

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