Google plans to offer checking accounts in 2020

Google and Citigroup are teaming up to offer checking account services.
Image: Cody DeBos / The Burn-In

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google is the latest technology company to enter the financial sector. The Big Tech firm is partnering with Citigroup to offer checking account services to its Google Pay users. Currently, the two organizations are eyeing a 2020 launch date for their co-venture.

Google’s Checking Account Program Details

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google views its forthcoming financial product rollout as an extension of its existing mission. Indeed, Google’s Vice President Caesar Sengupta told the publication that the project is intended to “help more people do more stuff in a digital way online.” As such, the firm plans to use its analytics tools to help consumers gain financial insights and optimize their budgeting.

Besides, the search engine company is considering tying in a loyalty program to its new service.

Notably, Google doesn’t isn’t trying to disrupt the banking industry with its checking account program. The firm explained that its checking products will bear Citigroup branding and that the financial institution will handle the necessary regulatory compliance mandates.

The corporation’s Google Pay service already functions as a digital wallet that allows users to transfer currency. However, it wants to extend the platform’s availability to handle direct deposits and more retail transactions.

In addition to providing a new revenue stream, its checking services will also give Google a wealth of consumer data. The corporation has used the personal information it harvests from programs like Gmail to become a marketing powerhouse. However, the firm told the Wall Street Journal that it will not share banking information with its advertising partners.

Big Tech’s Increasing Interest in Banking

Recently, many of Silicon Valley’s leading corporations have expanded their operations to include financial services.

In March, Apple announced that it would be working with Goldman Sachs to offer its customers a branded credit card. In June, Facebook revealed that it is developing its own cryptocurrency and an accompanying digital wallet. Last month, Uber launched Uber Money, a Green Dot-backed product that provides its 4 million drivers with various financial services.

In each case, a Big Tech firm has pitched its financial services as a natural extension of its existing products. However, the technology industry’s interest in banking has drawn significant scrutiny from regulators.

Earlier this month, Apple Card users, including Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak, alleged that the service has a bias against women. Consequently, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Finance Services Committee, said that those claims would be officially investigated.

Similarly, Facebook has faced criticism of its Libra cryptocurrency from legislators across the globe. As a result, its partners, Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal have abandoned the project.

Furthermore, the social network’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that the firm’s financial product wouldn’t go live without legislator approval. Since Congress publicly excoriated the executive regarding the project’s shortcomings, governmental consent to its existence seems unlikely.

It’s also worth noting that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Google for potential antitrust violations. Therefore, the company has just given the federal government another area of inquiry. Indeed, the firm’s entrance into the financial sector seems remarkably ill-timed as regulating Big Tech is a clear priority for both of America’s major political parties.