Five with Fidel #2 | Jack Connors, Head of Merchant Partnerships at Google Pay
Welcome back to episode two of Five with Fidel - our interview series where we chat to the people who know payments best - all within five questions...ok, it’s actually six this time - we had such a good chat, covering so many topics, we were left with no choice.
A little backstory
This week, we’re delighted for you to meet Jack Connors, Head of Merchant Partnerships for Google Pay. When it comes to technology, business development, sales or strategy, there are few who bring as much knowledge to the table as Jack - and we’d know. Jack was instrumental in helping get the latest version of Google Pay off the ground.
Q | Hey Jack, thanks for joining us today! Firstly, congratulations on Google Pay going live, what a huge achievement. If you were to give a synopsis - what were Google's primary motivations behind this effort?
Thanks for having me, Dev.
Firstly, we saw a huge gap in the market for a unified experience around payments, offers and money management. Millennials and Gen Z are used to living a mobile-first lifestyle where everything from hailing a cab to ordering groceries can be done with simple taps on a mobile device. But when it comes to expenses, payments and savings they have to toggle between different sites and apps to send, spend, save and stay on top of their finances. So we wanted to create a platform that serves all their money needs.
Our strategy with Google Pay has always been to build a simple and helpful connection between people and businesses. At the same time, we also realized that as users were increasingly moving to mobile experiences, merchants were facing a challenge in building meaningful connections.
Their relationship with their customers are also scattered on different channels and they were having a hard time reaching them in a relevant, timely manner. With Google Pay, we wanted to extend this same helpfulness to merchants as well.
Q | As someone with an extensive background in technology, what excites you most about the direction payments-led innovation - like Google Pay’s new platform launch - is going in?
This approach to the world of money as we see here in the US has been traditionally different from what we may have seen in places like Kenya, India, China, which developed as mobile-first nations with a focus on accessibility and financial inclusion.
And, I think the future of digital payments in the US will look a lot more like what we see in emerging economies with a focus on mobile first. We are just at the beginning of this journey. We will see new ancillary experiences being built within mobile payment apps. For example, people will pay bills, buy things, engage with merchants, open bank accounts and budget and manage finances all from their mobile devices.
Digital-first experiences are not only helpful to our users, they are equally important to our partners. The pandemic has taught us there is a need to bring offline experiences online both for users and for businesses. And we at Google Pay are giving equal importance to both users and our merchant and bank partners.
For merchants, we want to build an innovative platform where they can find new ways to reach and service their customers across digital channels and deliver new experiences. For example, Google Pay has teamed up with Shell, ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, 76, and Conoco to enable users to find nearby gas stations, see fuel prices, and pay for gas right from the Google Pay app at 30,000 gas stations nationwide.
We’re also partnering with leading retailers, like Target, who are pursuing new ways to reach customers via the Google Pay platform. Recently they started running their weekly circular directly in the Google Pay app.
Q | Obviously, 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, how do you think financial services will have to adapt in response to meet the shifting needs, habits and attitudes of users as well?
You’re absolutely right that 2020 has changed our world in ways we couldn’t have imagined. But we’ve seen people adapt with the help of technology. Our wallets are in our smartphones, our supermarkets are in our apps, and our conferences are in our computers. These technologies were present pre-Covid, but the pandemic has compelled their mass adoption.
More specifically, the pandemic has brought about an inflection for digital payments. The change we expected to gradually happen over the next few years is taking place now. We are witnessing a pivot by users to digital payments and merchants encouraging usage. For example, more than half among the under-35 age group have swapped out their top-of-wallet card for one with contactless, according to a Mastercard Global Survey in April 2020. And, the same survey found that about 3 in 4 people will continue to use contactless payments post pandemic, which tells us that this trend is here to stay. In parts of Asia, digital wallet capabilities have become more ubiquitous as they are seamlessly integrated into people’s everyday lives.
In this evolving scenario, users are looking at easy and simple digital-first experiences to pay, save and manage their finances. Merchants are seeking ways to reach, service and engage their digital customers. Banks are designing intuitive end-to-end mobile banking experiences. Governments are interested in making money work for all and real time payments to keep money flowing in the economy at all times. And an inflection point like this has opened up new thinking and new channels for innovation.
Q | How do you think those customer needs will change in the next 5-10 years?
We do not wake up every morning thinking about payments but we do wake up thinking about our day, and a lot of what we need to do in a day has some sort of payments or commerce attached to it.
Increasingly, people want a convenient way to pay friends and businesses in-store or online with simple and secure taps and swipes. They want buying everyday things to be easier and now they also want to do these things in as much of a touch-free way as possible.
They also seek a clearer picture of their finances, desiring a full view of their money. We know from user research that generally, people find managing money difficult and complicated. These needs from consumers will continue to accelerate in the coming years. People will want convenience alongside privacy and security, which will take front and center of all technology design.
Q | Could you recommend to us a really great book, podcast, Ted Talk or blog you’ve read recently?
I’ve subscribed to Robert Glazer’s “Friday Forward” newsletter for some time and it’s one of those newsletters I keep referring back to. It has great leadership advice and overall motivational content - perfect for ending each week.
Q | Finally, what’re you most looking forward to in 2021?
From a business perspective, I’m really excited about some of the great new features we’re adding to Google Pay in the coming year. We’re continuing our quest to make money simple, safe and accessible for all users, and we have some great things in store.
And, on a personal level, I’m really looking forward to the day I can try this thing called “going out with friends.” I hear that dinner, drinks, and live music can be a lot of fun. I hope to try it some time.
You can find all the details of Fidel’s work with Google in our latest press release here.
You can connect with Jack on Linkedin here if you’d like to say hi. Make sure to look out for our next Five with Fidel episode - you can subscribe to our blog here to never miss a beat.