Google fired two senior executives this week. The first was Bill Ready, Google’s “President of Commerce, Payments and Next Billion”, who left to become CEO of Pinterest. The second big departure is Javier Soltero, who was vice president and general manager of Google Workspace, Google’s paid business app, and was the leader of Google Messaging. Both executives brought big changes to Google during their nearly three-year stints at the company. Now that they’re gone, it’s unclear what the future of their respective products holds.
Ready was only at Google for two and a half years, where his most high-profile move was presiding over the disastrous rollout of a major redesign of Google Pay. The new Google Pay app was spearheaded by Ready’s payments team, led by another recently ousted executive, Caesar Sengupta. Google Pay’s revamp brought an app originally developed for India to the US, where the phone number-based identity requirement came with a huge list of downgrades: the website Google Pay was to be stripped of payment functionality, the app no longer supported multiple accounts, and you couldn’t be signed in to multiple devices.
Rolling out the new app was also clunky. Slowly, over a month or two, users were kicked out of the old Google Pay and had to switch to a new app. The new identity system was not backward compatible with the old Google Pay, which meant that users of the old app could not send money to users of the new app.
The new Google Pay was announced a year into Ready’s tenure at Google and launched in March 2021. The app initially came with big expansion plans, including a wild announcement of Google-branded bank accounts. Sengupta left Google a month after the US launch of the new Google Pay, which sparked an “exodus” of employees, according to Insider. The report says ‘dozens of employees and executives’ left the payments team after Sengupta left, with one employee saying there was ‘frustration’ that the new Google Pay was ‘not growing. at the pace we wanted.
What happened next appears to be a complete removal of the original “New Google Pay” game plan. Google typically launches a product in the US first and then slowly rolls it out to the rest of the world, but after the initial poor reception, the new Google Pay never saw a wide rollout outside of the US. Google canceled its heavily promoted plans for a Google bank account, even though, according to the Wall Street Journal, the company already had 400,000 curious users on the public waitlist.
Ready named a new payments leader in January, a move Bloomberg described as a “reset” to Google’s payments strategy. Ready also made headlines at the time, saying, “Crypto is something which we pay a lot of attention to,” although no Google products have emerged.
Four months later, at Google I/O 2022, other the redesign of Google Pay was announced, renaming the product to “Google Wallet”. That’s right, after a big overhaul of Google’s payments app in 2021, there’s now another new overhaul in 2022. Ready is now leaving five months after appointing a new head of payments and implementing those plans , but he won’t be there for the launch of Google Wallet. Between the departure of former Payments Manager Sengupta, Sengupta’s boss, Ready, and “dozens” of team members, it looks like the Payments team has finally cleaned up the house.
At the heart of Google’s payment turmoil is likely the fact that most estimates place Google Pay at 3-4% of the US NFC payments market, which is far behind Apple’s nearly 92% market share. It’s an embarrassing loss to Google, which pioneered NFC payments and entered the market three years before Apple.
A big part of Google’s payment issues is this kind of instability, with Google’s payment app running across four different brands in 10 years (Google Wallet, then Android Pay, then Google Pay, now Google Wallet again ). It still doesn’t look like the company has come up with a great solution with the new Google Wallet. The current plan, which could change once Ready’s replacement is hired, is that Google Wallet and Google Pay coexist in the USA. In the rest of the world there will be a payment app, Wallet, which looks like a clean and reasonable offering. In the US and Singapore, however, Google doesn’t want to kill off the widely criticized new Google Pay app, so both Google Wallet and Google Pay will be available. Why? If Wallet is rolling out to the rest of the world, the code base clearly has the payment feature set, why not just roll it out everywhere?
Google is still looking for a vice president to replace Bill Ready, but the interim president of payments will be longtime Googler Nick Fox. Fox was previously front and center in Google’s technology landscape as the head of Google messaging when the company produced Google Allo. Allo was Google’s main messaging app from 2016-2018, lasting around 576 days on the market. From Hello, Fox runs google search.