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Google Pay product manager on 'Plex Account' launch

Google Pay product manager Josh Woodward joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the company's resdesign of Google Pay to add new financial management and loyalty features; and to offer consumers checking and savings accounts from partner banks and credit unions in 2021, including Citi and the Stanford Credit Union.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: The last decade, all we've heard about-- fintech this, fintech that. Google has been involved in this space. And yesterday, they announced some changes to their Google Pay app. And we can talk about what they are trying to compete with, who they are not trying to compete with, and where we stand in the whole cycle. For that conversation, we're joined now by Josh Woodward. He's a product manager over at Google Pay. Yahoo Finance's Dan Roberts also joins us for this conversation.

So Josh, let's begin, I guess, with the macro cycle as you see it of the evolution of Google Play and also all the other apps that are in the space-- the Squares, the Venmos, the way that PayPal has changed and how you see your product fitting in there and the things you guys wanted to do with this latest release.

JOSH WOODWARD: Yeah, Miles. Great question. Thanks for having me on. So we, like you said, have been working on Google Pay for years now. It's actually live in over 30 countries, soon 40. 150 million people use it every month. And I think we were really excited to launch the product yesterday because we wanted to see if we could bring together three different things in one app.

What we've seen from our research is that people feel a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress when it comes to their money and how they manage it. And so the new Google Pay app helps you do three things. It helps you pay friends and businesses. It helps you save money with offers and rewards, and it also helps you get insights about your money so you can stay on top of your spending.

DAN ROBERTS: Josh, Dan Roberts here. There's a lot in this announcement and a lot of new features here. And of course, some are framing this as Google Pay is targeting Venmo, PayPal, even banks because you are launching Plex accounts. Do you guys see it that way? Do you see it as a competitive shot at a number of these existing players, or do you just see this as it was a natural evolution of our previous app?

JOSH WOODWARD: Yeah, I think it's a great question, Dan. When we're developing products at Google and on Google Pay specifically, we're really focused on where the user is feeling the most pain when it comes to managing their money. And what we look for as product managers, as designers is where they find those points where they're grumpy about using things to do with their money.

And so I think for us, when it comes to how we think about the app, really, I think what sets it apart is, like you said, we're trying to pull together a few of these different adjacent use cases into one app. When it comes to competing with banks, it's actually completely the opposite. So if you see our Plex account strategy, what we're doing is we're actually partnering with banks. We announced yesterday there's 11 banks participating.

And what happens is Google brings our UX, our technology expertise, and we match that up with the bank's financial and regulatory expertise. And the banking account is actually-- you can activate it directly from within Google Pay, but your money is with the bank. And so we're really trying to bring those two together in a unified experience for customers.

DAN ROBERTS: And Josh, to give you a personal anecdote, on my Chase app, I actually often find it very, very difficult to search for specific charges or search for an account that I know I have that has a recurring charge. I saw already an analyst note from somewhere this morning that said one big appeal of these changes is searchability and likened it to basically Gmail, but for your charges, your spending. Is that what you guys are really pushing? Can people think of this as a Gmail for your banking and your spending?

JOSH WOODWARD: Yeah, so it's an interesting comment. We do think that one of the big challenges right now is people actually having the information about their own money and their own finances. And so one way we're trying to make that more accessible and easier to use is actually bringing in features like search.

Now, what's interesting about search in GPay-- and if you haven't had a chance to try the app or if your viewers haven't, I'd encourage you to try this-- you can actually do different types of searches. So right out of the box, you can search for things like the name of a business where you made a transaction. But with your permission, you can also link other accounts into Google Pay.

So again, these are optional features. They're off by default. But you can link your bank account or your credit cards or your debit card. And that's when search, I think, gets really interesting, because you can search for certain things like Mexican restaurants and find those categories very quickly, or you can even do things-- if you want, you can link in your photos of receipts you've taken-- again, another feature that's off by default, but you can turn it on. And when you do, you can search for very specific things like shirt or tent, and you can find those receipts that you've taken a picture of. So that's a way, Dan, we're trying to make natural language search much more easy and apply it to your transactions.

MYLES UDLAND: Josh, you mentioned that you guys are partnering with banks right now. Obviously, being a bank is a very big undertaking for any firm. As you think about the evolution of Google Pay and those kinds of services, do you think that Google wants to be a bank? You are offering banking-adjacent services, but it's very different when you're the primary backer of that. Is that something that you guys talk about or think about, or does that just put the company in a completely different trajectory?

JOSH WOODWARD: Yeah, Miles, we get asked that question a lot. And we have no plans to become a bank. I think you can see that from our strategy not only in the US, where we've partnered with banks, but other countries as well. Take our app in India, for example. That's another place where we've taken this ecosystem-centric approach, and we've worked with the National Payments Corporation. We're using the national rails to transfer money with the banks. And I think that's really another differentiating part of our strategy, is we're trying to work within the ecosystem and within the regulatory framework that exists.