The big tech dogs are circling the Fintech opportunity. Apple, and Alibaba have all made big moves in Fintech. More is to come. Fintech gives these firms the potential for billion dollar lines of business that move the needle for them. Financial Services is 16% of the S&P 500.
So, I wanted to see what Google was up to in Fintech. TL;DR, quietly plugging away with massive ambition. This is the story of the dog that did not bark (yet).
Google is best known for its Wallet and the ability to send money as an attachment in Gmail.
Compared to the big waves being made by Apple Pay, Google looks like it is either “asleep at the switch” or, taking a more positive interpretation, “taking the long view, slow fuse” approach.
The latter is in Google’s normal style. For example, they have taken many years to get Google Apps to the stage where it is a serious contender in the market. Or think of how long they have been working publicly on driverless cars. Apple works in secret to get a strategy perfectly worked out and then they launch. Google launches and then keeps iterating for years unless the data shows them that there is no market.
In the recent quarterly conference call with investors, Omid Kordestani (Chief Business Officer) , had this to say about Google Wallet:
“I think our goal here is really achieving mass merchant adoption and the availability of NFC devices. It’s also making it easier for consumers to replace their wallets with their smartphones hopefully over time. Reducing friction in everyday shopping experiences is how we approach it and focusing on the user. We’re developing a fully functional payment system. As you may know users can send money today to friends to Gmail using the wallet app where we have loyalty and gift cards that can be stored in the wallet app. Buy with Google button makes it possible to make purchases very quickly with two clicks. The focus is on merchant adoption and removing the friction for users.”
Google “Google Fintech” and the biggest news is a senior person, Dan Cobley, leaving Google in order to start a Fintech Investment Fund. Clearly one Googler wanted to step up the pace.
Google is helping startups with tools, limited cash and mentoring; but so is everybody else, so this does not tell us much about where Google’s ambitions lie in Fintech.
I looked at Google Ventures Portfolio Fintech to see if this offers some clues. They don’t show Finance as a sector. The categories are Consumer, Mobile, Health and Enterprise. Fintech is in the Other. There are a couple of Fintech names such as:
I see no great themes or intent in that list nor in anything said publicly by Google.
So, there is not a lot of noise, but I suspect that Google will keep plugging away at this until they crack it, like they have done in other markets. One statement from Omid Kordestani stands out:
“We’re developing a fully functional payment system.”