NMI’s Payment Playbook Podcast

Episode 15: Jenny Cheng, VP and GM of Google Wallet

What if your digital wallet could do more than just hold cards? What if it could become a one-stop solution for your identification, boarding passes, concert tickets and more? That's exactly what we're exploring in our intriguing chat with Jenny Cheng, VP and GM of Google Wallets. We venture into the fascinating world of mobile wallets and digital payments, shedding light on how the pandemic has shifted our perspectives. Hear from Jenny about Google Wallet's core mission of accessibility and the broader applications of mobile wallets, such as digital driver's licenses, barcodes, QR codes and more. 

We learn more about Google Wallet's security, its commitment to user's data and payment credentials protection, and how it stands out from the crowd. Jenny Cheng shares her thoughts on the potential of the digital payments space over the next 5 to 7 years. We also delve into the collaborative aspect of this evolution, discussing the necessity to involve consumers, merchants, and the broader ecosystem in this transition. In summary the episodes highlighted the potential of mobile wallets beyond just payments and underscored the importance of security in this digital transition.

Greg Myers: Hi Jenny, and welcome to this episode of the Leaders in Payments Podcast where we’re going to be talking about anytime, anywhere payments. And of course, mobile wallets fits right into that category very well. So, thank you so much for being here, and welcome to the show.

Jenny Cheng: Thanks, Greg, excited to have an opportunity to talk to you.

Greg Myers: Great. Well, let’s start by having you tell our audience a little bit about yourself, maybe a little personal and professional background.

Jenny Cheng: Sure. Jenny Chang. I’m the VP and general manager for Google Wallet here at Google, just really excited to have the opportunity here at Google to lead the product and engineering organization that’s responsible for just bringing safe and accessible payments to all our users.

Greg Myers: And tell us about Google Wallet. Obviously, our audience knows who Google is, but maybe how sort of Google Wallet fits into the Google corporate structure.

Jenny Cheng: Google Wallet team – we’re part of the broader commerce organization here at Google, where we just work across the entire Google ecosystem to bring shopping and payments together in a seamless and secure way. But my team, we have the privilege of working across almost all the Google businesses, especially teams like Android since while it is available on Android devices, we work across Chrome and Maps and some other teams as well.

Greg Myers: Great. Well let’s dive into the topic at hand, which is mobile wallets. And according to my research, Google was the first major company to launch a digital wallet, I think it goes back to 2011. So, can you kind of give us a quick history or timeline of mobile wallets?

Jenny Cheng: Yeah, I think mobile wallets, mobile payments have been around for quite a long time. But we’ve been really in this big generational shift in what I call “to digital” around the world. And I know you’re familiar as well, since you’ve been in the payments space. We’ve really been growing our number of digital native users as that generational shift has happened to the point where when we’ve all moved on to our mobile phones as really our primary device. That’s also translated into how we consume content, engage, you know, hail a ride as well as you know, just to everything on our phones. So, as I mentioned, I have two Gen Z ers. And so you can see that this plays out in real time in my life, as well as I’ve watched my children grow up and as they’ve moved into this mobile first perspective. So, with that, you know, they expect to be able to do everything they can on their phone, and that includes payments that includes being able to access things in the non-payments world. And so, as we’ve moved from this uptick in the last decade or so, we’ve really seen an acceleration of this with the pandemic. I think with that a lot of people have moved into mode where they are expecting to be able to have contactless payments done via mobile phone. And as we think about that, we also saw that move into beyond payments into things like your vaccination cards being digitized. And then slowly, people are expecting kind of more and more things to be in their digital wallet beyond payments, so that it could include your car keys or hotel keys, so that there are less things for you to have physically to keep track of. But also, it just makes it safer and more secure to have it on your phone. So, when we launched Google Wallet, it’s been about a year a little bit more than a year ago. You know, our goal here is really to make sure our users have a safe and accessible way to use their payment cards. But we also want to make that very universal, very accessible. And so, we’ve also been expanding not just the number of countries we’re in, we’re at over 70 countries and territories since we launched, but also more use cases beyond payments. So, over the last year, we’ve added a bunch of new features as well, including the mobile driver’s licenses here in the US, we started with Maryland this year, and we’re going to continue to bring that to market so that you can actually use your mobile driver’s license when you go through TSA at the airport, for example. And then we’re also looking at what can do to make it easier to put things in your digital wallet. And so, make it as simple as taking a photo of a barcode or QR code. And you could put that digital version into your wallet very easily.

Greg Myers: Okay. And obviously, you’ve given some examples outside of payments. I mean, obviously, this show is typically about payments. But I think, overall, our listeners would love to hear some of those use cases. So, you talk about the driver’s license, what are some of the other use cases that you’re either seeing or that you feel like are coming in the not-too-distant future?

Jenny Cheng: Yeah, payments is obviously the core of what we think of when we think of our digital wallet. But when you think about your physical wallet, you’re thinking about all the other things that might be in there. And that’s, I think, really what our users are expecting. So, as I mentioned, you know, usually you have some kind of identity. So, your mobile driver’s license replaces your driver’s license in your physical wallet. And then we’re also looking at expanding those use cases. So, we’ve announced earlier this year, things like being able to safely hold your health insurance card in your wallet. So, when we think about what you want to put in your wallet, we want to make sure that things are really secure, and that our users have a choice in terms of all the things they can do in their wallet. So, we mentioned being able to easily save things in your wallet, right? I mentioned that as well in terms of being able to take a picture of a barcode or QR code. So, you could put your gym membership card, your library card, your train ticket, I was just in Europe, and you sometimes get train tickets with QR codes or barcodes on them. And you could just take a picture of that and save it into your wallet to make it easy to travel. So that’s one aspect of what we’re doing is to bring all those kinds of use cases in as well. The second time is things like you may want to do around more security and privacy. So, the health insurance card, again, is a great example that we have talked about being able to do that in a way that we are utilizing what we call private passes. So, users can now save health insurance cards with a private pass, which then gives a special label on it. So, when you can identify it easier, but also adds additional security measures to it across the board. So, we’ve launched that feature with Humana, for example, here in the US and with HMRC in the UK. And we’re going to bring it to more and more people across the world. And then if you’re like me, and you’re looking at wanting to make everything you do on a daily basis, accessible in your wallet, whether it’s riding public transportation as you go into work every day, or you’re looking at also things like your corporate ID, and being able to access your corporate building very easily with your mobile phone instead of having to reach all the time for your corporate badge or physical badge. So really thinking about those types of use cases as we expand our digital wallet from not just payments and again, payments will always be core to everything we do, but also looking at all those other things you want to digitize that might be in your physical wallet.

Greg Myers: Yeah, I always have said to anybody that would look and I feel like personally until my driver’s license or you know, identity is taken out of the physical world and into the, you know, wallets of the world, then I will always have a need for, you know, a physical wallet. But once you do that everything else that I would have in my physical wallet can be digitized. So, it sounds like with your Maryland initiative that’s already starting.

Jenny Cheng: It is. And again, you know, digital car keys. That’s another example. Think about some of the things you physically take with you, when you leave the house, right? It’s your wallet, it might be your house keys, your car keys, and we’re really looking at getting to the place and the time, as everything continues to be digitized. And we move into this digital first type of world that you are able to leave the house just with your phone.

Greg Myers: Yeah, I love that concept. And I imagine it’s not as far off as some people think it is. Well, let’s talk about back to the payments aspect of it. You know, for those who may not know, can you kind of talk about how it actually, works? What does a consumer who has a phone, what do they need to do? Maybe talk about it from, you know, downloading of the cards, adding the cards paying. So, give us kind of that walkthrough of how you use the Google Wallet?

Jenny Cheng: Yeah, you know, the Google Wallet is a standard wallet experience across Android devices. So Android, our OEM or device manufacturers can choose to have Google Wallet pre-installed. So, when you buy the phone, it’s right there. Or you can always download it, of course and install it yourself depending on what you want to do. The goal here is really to make sure that whatever wallet you are using, is very open and accessible across the Android ecosystem. And our goal here is to make it really easy, as I’ve mentioned, for everyone to access their ability to pay via payments, regardless of what your device is. So, we want to support all digital payments as much as possible across the Android ecosystem. We want to make sure your experiences are secure. So, we take advantage of all the wonderful things that Android brings to the ecosystem around security. So that’s the authentication, the biometrics, the encryption. And then from the payments perspective, we’re really taking advantage of the fact you can actually use your phone to tap and pay, right, the contactless payments. But we’re also very considerate of the fact that there are many places around the world where that tap and pay experience may not be the primary way you pay. So, the example that I’ll give is we recently announced QR code payments in Brazil. Because while Brazil is a dominant Android Market, most devices are not NFC enabled, which you need in order to tap and pay. According to E marketer, you know, only about 25% of the phones in Brazil have NFC enablement on them. So, with that in mind, if you ever get a chance to go to Brazil, you’ll see there are a lot of QR codes at the merchants that you shop that. So, to make it convenient for those phones that do not have NFC, we’ve also enabled cards QR in order to have a different form of payments. And I think you’re very aware, while payments is global, we always say you know, there’s that aspect of payments, that has to be local, you have to understand how things are bought, how payments are made based on the country, and based on the region that you’re in. And then I think I’ll just mention, I think people aren’t always aware of how easy it is to use your phone as a payment source in order to ride public transit. So that’s whether or not that’s just being able to use your credit card on your phone and tap and pay or if that’s actually buying a transit card and adding it to your wallet to tap and pay. So, I think those are all the different options across the board.

Greg Myers: Okay. And you mentioned earlier, I think you said 70 countries, are you referring to the ability to pay in all those countries?

Jenny Cheng: Yes. So, the ability to use Google Pay with Google Wallet in those countries. So, we are available for use in all those countries across the board. It’s over 70 essentially countries and territories around the world.

Greg Myers: Okay, great. Well, good segue into the next question about Google Pay. So why would someone use Google Pay versus pulling out their debit or credit card out of their wallet?

Jenny Cheng: Yes. Well, I think the number one reason is convenience by thick, we are always looking to balance what is easy for users and what is accessible. And so, one of the main drivers is convenience, it’s easy, as you probably know, from your personal use to just tap and pay when you’re checking out. And again, your phone is readily available, it’s usually in your hand or, you know, in a pocket, versus if you’re like me, and you have to dig through your purse and pull out your wallet and pick the credit card. There’s just a convenience factor that is really wonderful. And that ability to do that, again, whether it’s at the checkout moment, it’s on transit, you know, and then ideally, as we continue to go across these other payments, use cases. And then next, there’s a security element, you know, digital payments are safer than physical payments. And so, we’re really focused on continuing that education process, as I think many people aren’t so aware of that. And we’re really focused at Google, thinking about how do we make sure your payments credentials and your user data is protected as you use those digital payments across the board. So, one of the things we do is when you add a payment card, we create a device specific virtual card or a device token, if you’re familiar with that. So, your real card number is not stored on your device. It’s not shared with merchants. So, we’re really trying to protect you against all those fraudulent charges and the possibility of your credit card number getting out there in broader internet world, as we’re all familiar with. And then in addition to that, we’re very aware that while we’re people are looking for convenience, they also want to make sure things are very secure. So, in some countries, we require an additional level of authentication and device lock. So that could be biometric. That could be a PIN code, in order to make that payment. So, we’re looking at kind of that combination of things, which makes it more secure than actually pulling out your physical card and tap in pin.

Greg Myers: So, as we all know, there are other mobile wallets out there in the market, what makes Google Wallet better.

Jenny Cheng: So first of all, I’m going to start off by saying, I think having a lot of wallets out there is wonderful and great because I really am a big believer, and we are here at Google, on an open ecosystem, and really making sure that everyone is really working for what is best for our users. I’m a big believer in user choice as well. And so, we want to make sure we are thinking about having open and interoperable standards across, ideally, all wallets in cross all ecosystems. And so, one of the things I’ll just mention is, we recently joined the Open Wallet Foundation, which is part of the overall Linux Foundation, and our goal here is really to work across a globe to establish open interoperable standards share open-source software. So really looking at building the broader ecosystem. So let me start with that to begin with. But I think in terms of Google Wallet, in particular, what I’m really excited about is we’re really focused on accessibility, you’ve heard me say that many times already. Accessibility, because I think it’s absolutely critical that Google Wallet is available to as many people everywhere as possible. And so, this is why we’re looking at not just different forms of payment, but also making sure it’s available in as many countries and for as many use cases as possible. And then I think as we think about that support, and we think about the variations by again, no regions and countries, by those who have phones that are NFC enabled, those who do not, we want to make sure that we’re building a great wallet for Android, which is the most diverse mobile platform out there with more than 3 billion active devices. So, when you think about that alone being an opportunity, then we want to make sure we’re building a wallet that can play to all the users on that platform. And then on top of that, I think, you know, just the fact that we have the ability to look at what else could we offer, from an overall Google perspective? How can we make sure that our users have the opportunity to stitch these things together to make a great experience across androids entire platform. I think those are some of the things that really make Google Wallet unique.

Greg Myers: What do you think’s next for this space? Where do you see it headed in say the next five to seven years?

Jenny Cheng: Well, as I mentioned, I think the pandemic has really accelerated digital adoption as a whole, but especially on the payments and commerce space. So, we’re seeing a huge acceleration there. And I think that’s only going to continue, everyone has gotten a little bit more used to and sees the convenience of what digital payments can bring to the table. So, when you think about the mobile wallet space, our users are going to want more to happen and more things to be available on their digital wallets. So, I think it’s a huge opportunity for us then to look at what we can do from a global skill perspective as people are going back to traveling, for example, but also make sure we’re meeting people kind of where they are every day, the use cases that they live through every day, in order to be able to make a truly useful wallet. And again, so that you can actually leave your physical wallet behind your physical keys, all of that, that really is, I think, where the space will continue to grow. And as we look at how do we address that, one of our things here is we’re really looking at how do we make sure we allow that personalization aspect for the payment experience for consumers around the globe, but also continue to bring both the global scale and kind of the local national rails in mind, as we’re thinking about payments. And then how do we continue to work with the ecosystem so that we can bring everybody along on this journey. So, it’s not just bringing the users along. It’s bringing our merchants our ecosystem across, as well, and seeing and showing really the opportunities there are as we continue to move in this space.

Greg Myers: Yeah. Do you see? I mean, it’s a two-sided thing, right. You have consumers and merchants where the consumers can use, obviously, the Google Pay in the wallet products? I mean, do you see it accelerating more on the consumer side, the merchant side? Or, you know, they’re the merchants seem to follow the consumers kind of what are your thoughts on that?

Jenny Cheng: Yeah, I think we always think about this as being a virtuous flywheel or when you need, obviously, one to continue to grow the other, I really see the demand coming more from the user side of the house. And I see our merchants wanting very much to provide all those opportunities and be at the table to understand where this is going. And they’re looking at products like Google Wallet to say, what does that mean for us? How do we make sure that we are allowing our users choice in terms of how they pay. So those are things some of the areas the merchants are looking at across the board. But I think as our users are growing their expectations of what is in your mobile wallet, and how you can pay? I think that’s really what’s going to drive the momentum forward.

Greg Myers: And you mentioned some of the trends a minute ago. So, I wanted to circle back and maybe have you speak on, you know, what is Google doing? Or at least what you can publicly disclose you’re doing to take advantage of those trends? And I think people would be curious to know, kind of, you know, what are the plans to follow those trends in the next few years at Google?

Jenny Cheng: Yeah, when you think about Google, we just had our 25th birthday. So, our mission really continues to be to organize the world’s information, make it universally accessible and useful. And when you take that mission, and you bring it down to really the person level, and how Google Wallet plays, our goal here is to do something similar for you, as a user of Google Wallet, how do we make sure that with wallet, you can get to things like quickly and securely, whether it’s again, your payment card, or your transit or your airline boarding pass? So, we really want to build a product that makes it easy, and we’re organizing all your daily essentials, all the things you use normally in a way that is really useful and secure. And then how do we do that in a way that really applies to how you use your wallet. And you think about that from a user perspective. It’s, you know, your day-to-day transit, it’s your you might be going on a vacation and it’s your travel and your ability again, to maybe get on an airplane, you know, open that hotel door and pay for that great meal that you’re having on vacation. So that aspect I’m looking at it because one of the things that really excites me about payments is payments is really universal. And while we think about it, again, from a global perspective, we really need to be thoughtful of the use case. And the aspect that is really personal. I think all of us know how important it is to be focused on the financial needs of everything around us, whether it’s us as individuals, our family, our again, broader community. And so, when you look at that, that’s really some of the thought process and kind of the trends we see coming in the upcoming years.

Greg Myers: Great. Well, Jenny, we’ve covered a lot of ground, obviously, about you and Google Wallet, Google Pay the future and what you guys are working on, is there anything else you’d like to cover? Before we wrap up the show?

Jenny Cheng: I think I’ll just touch on what we’ve talked around the digital wallet space, it’s so much fun. And I think you’ve seen a lot of evolution happen in the last couple of years. And we’re really excited to keep thinking about this with the ecosystem at large. And really bring some great use cases in front of our users. When I think about that ecosystem. And as we touched on earlier, I think it’s just a really great opportunity to bring together all the different verticals, you know, transit, airlines cross the board, as well as the banks and the government bodies, to bring together all those things that are in your wallet. So, we touched on payments. But I think identity is also a really important part of payments as a whole. When we think about how identity helps with fraud, but also how identity is such a critical part of what you expect to be in your physical wallet. I think digital identity becomes more and more of a reality as part of mobile wallets as we go forward.

Greg Myers: Well, Jenny, thank you so much for being on the show. I know your time is very valuable. So, I really appreciate you being here today.

Jenny Cheng: Oh, Greg, thank you for the opportunity and super excited to talk about Google Wallet. Thank you.

Greg Myers: Absolutely. Absolutely. And to all your listeners out there. I thank you for your time as well. And until the next story.

02:17 – About Jenny Cheng

02:44 – About Google Wallet

03:22 – History of Mobile Wallets

06:41 – Mobile Wallet Use Cases

10:56 – How it Works

14:45 – Google Pay

17:14 – What Makes Google Wallet Better

19:55 – What's Next

23:10 – What's Next for Google Wallet