Alphabet’s Google has hired former PayPal executive Arnold Goldberg to run its payments division and set a new course for the business after it scrapped a push into banking. Bloomberg reports: The move is part of a broader strategy to team up with a wider range of financial services, including cryptocurrencies, said Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce. The business, known for the Google Pay system and mobile wallet, has largely avoided the crypto industry. The changes follow a major turnabout 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 nixed the proposed offering, called Plex. Instead, Google wants to become the connective tissue for the entire consumer finance industry, not just certain partners, according to Ready. “We’re not a bank — we have no intention of being a bank,” Ready said in an interview. “Some past efforts, at times, would unwittingly wade into those spaces.”
Tom Noyes, an industry analyst, estimated in 2020 that Google accounted for 4% of contactless payments in the U.S., calling the service “largely a failure.” As part of the overhaul, Google will focus more on being a “comprehensive digital wallet” that includes digital tickets, airline passes and vaccine passports, Ready said. He didn’t provide an update on the current number of Google Pay users. The company is integrating payments more tightly with Google’s shopping efforts, such as a feature that shows consumer loyalty cards and personal discounts directly in search results. Google also is trying to position itself as more welcoming to merchants than Amazon. In 2020, Google eliminated fees for retailers selling on its shopping service.
Tiptoeing into crypto also could help Google entice users. Google has partnered with companies, including Coinbase and BitPay, to store crypto assets in digital cards, while still having users pay in traditional currencies. Ready said Google is looking to do more of these partnership, though the company still isn’t accepting crypto for transactions. “Crypto is something we pay a lot of attention to,” he said. “As user demand and merchant demand evolves, we’ll evolve with it.”