Google shuts down Plex banking service even before launch


Google has moved away from Plex, its program that aimed to offer bank accounts to Google Pay users. Announced two years ago, the idea for the service was for Google Pay users to sign up for advanced checking and debit cards accounts at a number of partner financial institutions. These were called Plex accounts and were based on not charging monthly or overdraft fees, while also offering a combined Google and banking dashboard. To put it simply: Google provided the technology, the banks provided the financial services.

In the report of The Wall Street Journal, a Google spokeswoman said the company would now focus primarily on “providing digital empowerment to banks and other financial service providers rather than serving us as a provider of those services.”

Plex was announced in 2020, alongside the new Google Pay app. This would have presented Google Pay as a direct competitor of other digitally focused banks like Curve, Revolut and N26. It was said that he would partner with nine partner banks and that they would be free to open. They even opened their waiting list, which had swelled to around 400,000 people. This was especially important for smaller banks that didn’t have a strong digital presence, and Plex would have helped level the playing field. Citigroup was one of those smaller banks, and a Citigroup spokesperson said The Wall Street Journal that the bank would look for other ways to work with Google in the future.

It has been clear for some time now that all is not well in the Google Pay camp. The team have reportedly seen a talent brain drain in recent months, with payments leading Caesar Sengupta to leave in April. Sengupta was also the architect of the Plex project, although he was later replaced by Bill Ready, previously COO at PayPal. Ready was concerned that Plex would make other banks believe that Google was trying to compete with them. People familiar with the matter also said The Wall Street Journal that banking regulators supported Plex and had no role in its demise.

Many banks still felt that the project was moving forward. As late as last Monday, BM Technologies said its Plex accounts would arrive in late 2021 or 2022. “Google and BMTX are excited about this opportunity and have committed to this partnership,” the banking platform said in an e- mail to The Wall Street Journal at the time.

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