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could the google and citibank deal be the future of banking?

Do The Benefits Outweigh The Privacy Risks?

Every breath you take, every move you make, every single day, I'll be watching you… While we listen to the famous song, we can easily imagine a creepy little man lurking and stalking a woman he is singing to. Do you feel the similar chill at the back of your neck while surfing the web, sending emails or paying online? Maybe you should, because Google is always listening, always watching, and always collecting. Google knows when and where you are meeting your friends, it knows where you plan to travel, what you want to buy, who your contacts are, where you work, and where you drink your coffee. From all the information and data it gathers, Google probably knows you better than your own partner.

Empire built on consumer data

And why would Google need all this data? Advertising, of course. Google is one of the biggest advertising platforms in the world, and in 2019 its ad revenue added up to almost 134.81 billion US dollars.

This empire was built on the enormous amount of consumer data it collects, which allows advertisers to target potential customers with immense accuracy. Invading people’s privacy is a big business, and Google needs to access as much personal information as possible.

And in order to create a complete profile of any user, it needs specific financial data that shows what goes into your account, and how that money is spent later.

Enter, Citibank.

What Is the Google And Citibank Deal?

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Late last year, Google announced plans to launch a project codenamed Cache in 2020, in partnership with Citigroup and the Stanford Federal Credit Union

The project is envisioned as an extension of the Google Pay digital payments system, and will offer a “smart” checking account.

And why are these accounts smart? According to Pymnts, they will provide its account holders with money management tips to give them more control of their funds in those accounts – “funds linked to payments and identity credentials that consumers can use to buy things, pay bills and send money to others in and outside the Google ecosystem”.

This move is smart itself, because instead of trying to be a bank, which requires creating banking infrastructure and meeting regulations, Google is using the brand name, infrastructure and reputation for trust and stability of two banks - Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union, to acquire new users.

What is certain is that Google’s new partnership with Citibank is a way to help people use banking technology in innovative ways, as consumers increasingly expect the same type of experience from banks as they get from companies like Google.

On the other hand, Google gets access to Citibank’s global network of more than a hundred million clients.

Risks and benefits

By learning a lot about people’s spending patterns and using it to sell highly targeted ads, Google has a tremendous opportunity to considerably expand its advertising dominance into other markets. As for Citibank, it will also profit greatly as its target users are younger consumers, and studies have shown that they have the most affinity for opening an account affiliated in some way with players like Apple, Google or even Amazon. Meanwhile, bank’s customers will benefit from useful insights and budgeting tools Google will provide, albeit they will need to sacrifice some of their privacy.

What are the experts saying?

Experts are saying that this deal will have a similar effect as the partnership between Apple and Goldman Sachs that resulted in the Apple Card. The partnership seemed to have benefited Apple more than it did Goldman Sachs because the card itself came with low interest rate and no fees.

However, the bank seems ready to take the risk because it wants to increase deposits throughout the U.S. by offering online accounts, according to the Financial Times. This method also seems cheaper than all the methods combined that the bank has been trying out so far.

In China, these partnerships turn out more than well! The Citibank in China partnered with WeChat and now 90% of their customers are using WeChat for banking.


Stepping into credit cards
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wwpd - what will people do?

The question remains, will Google’s offering be enough incentive for people to switch to Cache? The New York Times thinks it’s not very likely. People are growing more and more wary of entrusting their personal data to tech companies, and studies have shown that younger consumers - those targeted by Citibank - are very active in protecting their privacy.

Additionally, customers are typically reluctant to switch accounts or banks, and even Millennials and Generation X still mostly trust their main bank for banking. However, according to Scratch's Millennial Disruption Index, 53% of young people don’t feel loyalty to their banks any more, and are willing to switch to more innovative and modern services.

Will Google be able to attract and catch them, while being persuasive enough about their personal data protection, remains to be seen.

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