Bank-branded Checking Accounts Soon from Google

November 14, 2019 | FinTech, Latest News, News

Google is partnering with Citigroup and the Stanford Federal Credit Union to offer checking accounts by next year.

Checking accounts. That all-important banking bastion may fall as cashed-up, data-heavy, and user-rich techs muscle into finance. Google’s Cache project will launch the search giant’s thrust deeper into banking with an offer of checking accounts, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Google found singular success in India with Google Pay, its payments platform. Over 67 million monthly users use Google Pay to pay for groceries and other everyday stuff digitally. Its popularity, therefore, led Google to merge it into its global payments organization. The Indian outfit was led by Caesar Sengupta, who is currently general manager and vice president of payments at Google.

Friendlier tie-up

According to Sengupta, the checking account service will primarily be bank-branded. Also, the banks will run the financial operations and be responsible for compliance. That strategy should result in a friendlier collaboration that could be more durable.

“Our approach is going to be to partner deeply with banks and the financial system,” Google executive Caesar Sengupta said to the Journal. “It may be the slightly longer path, but it’s more sustainable.”

What’s the angle?

There is no clarity yet on whether Google will apply fees to the proposed checking account service. Presumably, Google is eyeing the vast bank of information that it could access via Project Cache. However, this trove could include valuable data on people’s incomes, shopping, and bills paid.

As far as security of checking deposits is concerned, Google spokesman Craig Ewer had this to say: “We’re exploring how we can partner with banks and credit unions in the U.S. to offer smart checking accounts through Google Pay, helping their customers benefit from useful insights and budgeting tools, while keeping their money in an FDIC or NCUA-insured account.”

Citi spokeswoman Liz Fogarty:

“This agreement has the potential to expand the reach and breadth of our customer base. Privacy and transparency are, and will continue to be critical priorities.”

Joan Opp, president, and chief executive, Stanford Federal, said the deal was “critical to remaining relevant and meeting consumer expectations.”

Regulatory concerns

Meanwhile, by keeping the bank front-and-center, Google has likely saved itself some regulatory resistance.

However, U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat on the Senate panel that oversees banking, was wary: “There ought to be very strict scrutiny,” Warner told CNBC when asked about Google’s plans.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s proposed Libra stablecoin has run into rough weather. It’s facing a regulatory backlash and desertion by project partners.

Nevertheless, the social media giant announced the rollout of its Facebook Pay service in the US this week.

[Related Story: Facebook’s New Payment System to Roll Out This Week in the U.S. ]


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