Google hires senior PayPal executive to run payments business

Google had hired former PayPal executive Arnold Goldberg to lead its payments business. After abandoning its foray into the financial industry, Google is looking for a new path for the business.

Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce, said the move is part of a strategy that Google plans to partner with across a broad range of financial services, including cryptocurrencies. So far, Google’s business has mainly included Google Pay payment systems and mobile wallets, with little involvement in the cryptocurrency industry.

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Google made major adjustments to the related business last year. Google has been working on a digital checking and savings service over the past few years and has found 11 banks as partners to launch the service. However, in October last year, Google canceled the launch of the service, called Plex. According to Reddy, Google wants to be a connector for the entire consumer finance industry, not just some kind of partner.

We’re not a bank, and we don’t intend to be a bank, Reddy said in an interview. In some of the past jobs, we sometimes unknowingly dipped into these areas. Google is widely expected to shake up the financial industry, given its dominance in search and other Internet services.

So far, however, Google’s track record in this regard has been lackluster. Google Pay has made some headway in India, but struggled in other markets, falling far behind Apple’s payments platform. In addition, Google has not developed its own credit card or financial products like Apple.

However, Google has a huge user base and ample funding. Google also doesn’t charge any fees when users transact with Google’s mobile wallet. Reddy said there are no plans to change that. Google is also working to add more payment features to its search and shopping services. This will help show users “all the financial services available,” Reddy said.

Our goal is to help build connections. We are not a party to the conflict, he said.

Reddy, the former chief operating officer of PayPal, joined Google in 2019 and took charge of the business following the departure of Google’s payments executive. Goldberg, who was previously in charge of merchants at PayPal, will serve as vice president and general manager of payments and emerging markets at Google, which Google calls its “next billion users” project.

Reddy also promoted senior engineer Peeyush Ranjan to general manager of consumer payment services. He is responsible for the development of GooglePay in the Indian market. Google first launched its payments app in 2015 and repositioned it in late 2020 as a hub for users to track spending and find discounts.

At the time, Google announced that the app had 150 million monthly active users worldwide. However, Google’s mobile wallet faces stiff competition, even on Google’s own Android platform. For example, Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, uses its own payment system.

Industry analyst Tom Noyes estimated in 2020 that Google’s market share in the U.S. contactless payments market is only 4%, making it a large failure. As part of the change, Reddy said, Google will focus more on being a comprehensive digital wallet that can be used to manage digital airline tickets, airline boarding passes and proof of vaccines. He did not provide the latest user numbers for Google Pay.

Google is trying to integrate payments more closely with shopping services, such as showing user loyalty cards and exclusive discounts directly in search results. Google also wants to position itself as a more merchant-friendly platform than Amazon. In 2020, Google eliminated fees for retailers to sell items on its shopping platform.

Google Pay does not charge payment service fees is based on the same philosophy. Google hopes that enough users will find value in its payment services to drive them to continue searching for information and shopping on Google’s platforms. “Helping more people to do things on the free and open web is bound to pay dividends for our entire business,” Reddy said.

Careful involvement in the cryptocurrency industry could also help Google attract users. Google has partnered with companies such as Coinbase and BitPay to support the holding of crypto assets on digital cards while allowing users to continue to pay with traditional currencies. Reddy said that Google is seeking more such collaborations, but the company is still not accepting transactions in cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrency is something we’re very focused on. As the needs of users and merchants change, we’ll adapt, he said. Goldberg will be Reddy’s latest deputy after his predecessor, Caesar Sengupta, left last year. After leaving, Sengupta founded a fintech company called Arbo Works and poached several employees from Google’s payments team.

Reddy believes these departures are normal business changes. He declined to disclose the number of employees in the payments division but said the division was growing in a very healthy way.

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