Article by Andrew Brown - 4th December 2019

Hey Google, What’s My Bank Balance?

Personal finance and financial services are hurtling into the future at a ferocious pace. Google is the latest tech giant looking to take another sideways step into fintech, via a new collaboration with Citigroup. At some point during 2020, it’s rumoured that Google is planning to begin offering the capability to access current accounts through Google Pay. In theory this presents the ability to view and manage your bank account using a Google app – something not previously possible.

Potential Benefits

For consumers who use Google Pay regularly and appreciate the simplicity and ability of being able to pay for goods and services using cards saved to their Google account, it’s likely to be a welcome and natural next step.

It seems every bank is now in competition to provide the best online banking experience. Each has its own unique gimmick and all aim to let you to do more from your smartphone in an instant. New challenger banks such as Starling and Monzo now operate entirely through mobile apps without the need for traditional bricks and mortar banks, or even desktop online banking.

Fintech innovation is coming quicker than ever, with the aim to make banking and managing finances quicker and easier for consumers. Google’s deal with Citigroup is another partnership that gives consumers financial flexibility with their smartphones by linking a bank account to Google Pay.

Merging Finance and Tech

With technological innovation increasingly prevalent in personal finance, the lines between tech and finance are becoming blurred, resulting in both new players and established brands like Google desperate for a bigger slice of the action. Apple is throwing its own hat into the ring with the launch of its sleek metallic credit card, whilst Facebook, Amazon and even Uber have all hinted at excursions into finance and banking.

So, it seems Google’s foray isn’t a one-off. It’s more than likely that other tech giants will be joining banks in the race to develop the next big trend that attracts consumers into managing their finances away from traditional banks. Whether Google’s venture with Citigroup will prove to be the one that dominates and proves most successful will be interesting to follow as the new world of fintech and banking develops.

The Sceptic's View

It’s easy to see why someone might be cynical about allowing Google to view their bank account and transactional information. Google already collects vast amounts of data on consumers through Google Search, YouTube, Maps, Chrome and more.

In an era where consumer data is often used as currency, it’s perhaps sub-consciously considered a given that our behavioural data will be tracked at some point, especially online. But potentially giving Google access to view their personal financial data could be a step too far for more conscientious consumers.

Plus, when tech giants look to move into new sectors, any potential shortcoming becomes very attractive to headline writers. It didn’t take long after Apple’s credit card announcement before it faced criticism from high-profile names about potential sexual discrimination.

The goal from Google’s perspective is to offer customers an additional feature to Google Pay. The thinking is this will incentivise uptake in both Google Pay and Citi Bank current accounts. It also adds another element and ability to the Google ecosystem - a positive, or a negative, depending on your viewpoint on being tied down to a tech from a single company.

It’s important to recognise that Google’s partnership with Citigroup is still very much in its infancy and is still just a prospect at the time of writing. But ahead of a 2020 launch, it will need to be made clear to customers what data they would be sharing with both companies by using the service and what it could in turn be used for.

What may reassure some though, is that regulation and compliance appears to be handled by Citigroup, a more traditional old-hand at handling consumer finance data.

The Death of Banking?

That’s quite a headline, but one that’s already been thrown about in relation to tech giants becoming players in banking. It’s easy to get carried away when you think of the power companies like Google and Apple have with the resources and product networks at their disposal.

But let’s not get carried away. Currently there are only plans to make it possible to monitor finances in Google Pay. There’s no Google Bank or a Google Banking app (yet). But the moves from both Google and Apple are definitely raising eyebrows.

Should the account include an overdraft facility, it would appear on your Credit Report. It’s likely that the data sharing with Credit Reference Agencies would be done through Google’s financial partner in this instance, Citigroup. However, it’s again unclear whether you’d see Google or Citigroup as the account provider on your Report.

You can see all the information that will influence your Credit Score using checkmyfile.com. We include data from all four UK Credit Reference Agencies so that you can see what lenders see. It’s free for 30 days and then costs £14.99 a month which you can cancel at anytime online, or via phone or email.

The UK's First Provider Of Online Credit Reports

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