Enlarge / Google Pay keeps going down the drain.
Google’s grand plan to launch Google bank accounts is dead. As part of its big relaunch last year, the Google Pay division promised to launch “Plex,” a digital banking service from Google. However, after a disastrous year for Google Pay that included a failed app renewal and an exodus of employees from the division, a report from the Wall Street Journal now he says that Google’s bank account plans are dead.
Plex was officially announced almost two years ago and was heavily promoted on the Google Pay website and app, with a waiting list that users could sign up for. The service would have been a “mobile-first” banking app with physical cards, fewer fees, and lots of expense displays. I want to say something like, “I can’t imagine anyone wanting a Google bank account” given privacy concerns and how unstable Google’s new products can be, but the Wall Street Journal reports that there were 400,000 people on the waiting list. .
Google was partnering with Citigroup, Stanford Federal Credit Union, and a few other banks for the service, and apparently not all were in the plan to cancel Plex. The Wall Street Journal report closes with a rather sad paragraph:
This week, several banks were under the impression that the project would still go ahead. On Monday, BM Technologies INC. said its Plex accounts would arrive in late 2021 or 2022. “Google and BMTX are excited about this opportunity and are committed to this partnership,” the banking platform said in an email at the time.
The reason for the cancellation appears to be due to the Google Pay shock that we learned about earlier in the year. In August, Business Insider reported that “dozens of employees and executives have left” the Google Payments team in recent months, including “at least seven leaders on the team with director or vice president roles.”
In March of this year, Google Pay launched a disastrous revamp. Google shut down the perfectly good, mature service that had been around since the Google Wallet days, and the company replaced it with a new codebase that was originally developed in India. India-centric Google Pay (which was touted as the new global Google Pay) was inspired by WhatsApp and used your phone number as its identity. Requiring a SIM card for identity meant that the Google Pay website functionality had to be closed, multiple accounts were no longer supported, and users had to rebuild their contact lists to send money.
All of this happened in March with the forced shutdown of the old Google Pay app in the US, and the incredible thing about this is that Google’s VP of payments, Caesar Sengupta, left the company in April, just a month later. Sengupta blew up Google’s payment system and left before the transition was complete; left without bringing the new Google Pay up to the standards of the old app. Today, the revamped Google Pay is still worse than the previous app, and Google Pay is still fragmented internationally. Some countries remain in the new Google Pay app; some remain in the old Google Pay app.
Sengupta’s departure reportedly started the exodus that included “dozens” of employees. The BI report includes a quote from an anonymous former employee who claims that Google Pay “wasn’t growing at the rate we wanted” and that people were getting more and more frustrated. An employee told Business Insider that “Plex was completely [Vice President] Felix [Lin] and Caesar [Sengupta’s] creation, “both executives no longer work at Google, and with Plex’s biggest boosters gone, it’s no wonder the project is dead.
Google Pay is currently in terrible limbo and the future of the service is unclear. Plex was supposed to be an important feature of the new Google Pay. But with that dead and the architects of all this renovation no longer at Google, the split feels like an aimless mess.
Any mention of Plex was withdrawn from the Google Pay website on Friday. Google sent the following statement.
Our work with our partners has made it very clear that there is a consumer demand for simple, seamless and secure digital payments for online and in-store transactions. We are updating our approach to focus primarily on providing digital enablement for banks and other financial service providers rather than us serving as providers of these services.
We strongly believe that this is the best way for Google to help consumers gain better access to financial services and help the financial services ecosystem to connect more deeply with its customers in a digital environment.