Plex accounts were originally intended to be simplified bank accounts focused on the mobile experience. Users would be able to sync the account with Google Pay and wouldn’t be subjected to monthly or overdraft fees. In an effort to improve financial literacy and wellness, Google planned on implementing a budgeting dashboard that helped users understand how they spent and saved their money. It was the company’s next stab at truly on-the-go banking, popularized most recently by its own mobile payment system, as well as by Apple Pay and Apple Card.
“[We are] looking to make banking more relevant for the mobile-first generation,” said former Google vice president and general manager of Google Payments Caesar Sengupta last year. At the time, Sengupta spearheaded the Plex project and led the company’s Next Billion Users initiative, which seeks to make the internet more accessible to people worldwide. Google was on track to begin opening accounts in 2021, after which it would begin offering users the opportunity to sign up for a custom debit card, run by Mastercard.
But like with everything else, COVID-19 threw a wrench in Google’s plans, resulting in several Plex delays and missed deadlines. Sengupta left Google earlier this year to start his own financial tech company, Arbo Works (and brought a handful of his Google colleagues with him). Though former Paypal executive and current Google President of Commerce Bill Ready took over Plex, the project’s spark seemingly left with Sengupta.
A Google spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that the company would be shifting toward “delivering digital enablement for banks and other financial services providers rather than [Google] serving as the provider of these services.” While Citibank and Stanford Federal Credit Union already have mobile apps, Google may wish to focus on smaller institutions that haven’t so easily been able to keep up with the times. Still, the news is likely disappointing to the 400,000 users who have added themselves to Plex’s waitlist since last year.
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