Google bank evolves with Gmail payment service in UK

Google enables UK users to make payments through Gmail, 18 months after the service was launched in the US

Google has announced the UK availability of a service that allows people to make payments using Gmail, 18 months after its US launch.

As part of Google Wallet, the service can be used to send money in the Gmail environment.

“This means people in the UK will now be able to quickly and securely send money to friends and family in the UK directly within desktop Gmail – even if the recipient doesn't have a Gmail address,” said a Google blog post.

“We’re rolling out this feature over the coming weeks to all UK Gmail users over 18 years old, so keep an eye out for the £ icon in the attachment options,” added the post by Google Wallet product manager Travis Green.

IT companies such as Apple and Google are increasingly targeting the lucrative finance sector for additional sales. For example, Google is reported to be in talks to acquire mobile phone payments company Softcard.

According to reports, Google is in talks to buy Softcard from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon for around $100m. Softcard uses near-field communications (NFC) technology to enable consumers to pay for goods and services by tapping their mobile phone on a contactless reader.

Apple has also staked its claim in the payments sector with Apple Pay. The system, which also uses NFC technology, allows iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users to pay for goods and services using a combination of the mobile wallet and fingerprint authentication.

In the US, where Apple Pay has been in use since October 2014, the technology has had a flying start. The Apple Pay mobile wallet was responsible for 1% of digital payments in the US in November 2014, according to the ITG Mobile Payments report.

Google Wallet, which was launched in 2011, only accounted for 4% of payments in the same month, the report stated.

Apple CEO Tim Cook claimed Apple Pay accounted for $2 of every $3 spent using contactless payments across Visa, Mastercard and American Express in the US. The company has more than 700 banks and credit unions supporting the service in the US.

The success of Apple Pay is a sign of change in the financial services market and indicates the future role of IT companies in the sector.

IT giants boast high-performance IT infrastructures that process huge volumes of transactions every day. They are also used by millions on a daily basis. It makes sense to offer financial services where most consumer online activity is already taking place. PayPal has 157 million active users, which is more than most banks, while Facebook has more than one billion users and holds a lot of sensitive data. Amazon boasts more than 244 million users.

In comparison, Lloyds Bank has 30 million customers, HSBC has 52 million customers and Barclays has 48 million customers.

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