What Sengupta’s departure means for Google’s payments business

One of Caesar Sengupta’s many projects at Google involved adding over a billion new users

One of Caesar Sengupta’s many projects at Google involved adding over a billion new users to the company’s platform, revealing the scale of his portfolio and the importance of a financial technology arm that will soon be under different management following Sengupta’s departure.

Sengupta will leave Google at the end of April, ending a tenure in which he helped lead Google Pay and ChromeOS. Sengupta announced he’s stepping outside “into a new journey.” Google did not answer questions about how Sengupta’s departure will change Google’s leadership. “After 15 years with Google, Caesar Sengupta has made a personal decision to leave the company and start something entrepreneurial outside of Google,” Google’s PR office said in an email.

Most recently, Sengupta was vice president and general manager of payments and Google’s program to extend internet access in developing markets, called Next Billion Users. Google reports it has added more than 1.5 billion users to the internet over the past five years and is on pace to add another billion. Much of this work involved using Google Pay to provide access to financial services in emerging markets, with Sengupta encouraging other developers to do the same.

Sengupta is a key leader in Google’s India strategy, in which Google is one of the lead firms in processing United Payment Interface transactions. Elsewhere in India, Google is collaborating with Facebook to apply for a license to process payments domestically through its own rail.

Caesar Sengupta is leaving Google to become an entrepreneur.

Bloomberg

Google is additionally competing in the embedded finance race through a collaboration with Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union to compete with Apple and other major technology companies that are using their enrolled user bases to upsell financial services.

“The Google Pay team has many initiatives in play, and so the loss of [Sengupta] is regrettable,” said Tim Sloane, vice president of payments innovation at Mercator Advisory Group. “That said, every initiative Google Pay faces has a lead developer who is well-informed regarding the payments environment.”

Sengupta’s path is similar to that of Osama Bedier, a former Google Pay leader who left the company in 2013, founded merchant technology company Poynt, and has worked with other technology firms such as GoDaddy Commerce. Other Google Pay developers, such as Brian Brinkley, have gone onto lead other payment technology companies — QRails in Brinkley’s case. Another Google Pay exec, Peter Hazelhurst, has gone onto lead payments strategy at Uber, where the ride-sharing app’s use of enrolled credentials for invisible payments is often seen as a model for digital commerce.

“One of the tests of a good leader is things run better when [that leader] isn’t there,” said Richard Crone, a payments consultant, adding Google still has executives with extensive payment experience, such as Steve Klebe, who works on building partnerships for Google Pay, and has also worked on voice-directed payments for Google. “Google has a deep bench with some of the smartest people in payments pursuing these initiatives,” Crone said.

One of the most immediate challenges for Google’s new payment leadership will be expanding its embedded finance product. The Citi/Stanford FCU collaboration supports e-commerce payments and transfers, incentive marketing and payment tracking.

Google’s Plex account provides a mobile banking app that’s integrated with Google Pay, mirroring Apple Card’s partnership with Goldman Sachs, in an effort to tie banking and payments to non-financial products offered through the technology giant.

“This is a super app for Google that will do what mobile banking does and more … and it will do it for any bank or credit union that wants to participate,” Crone said. “That is a big part of the ‘Next Billion’ initiative.”

Google Pay has made several other moves to broaden payments technology over the past two years under Sengupta’s leadership, including launching a P2P app in Singapore that builds on Google’s partnerships with banks in the region; a deal with Global Payments to use Google Cloud to enhance merchant acquiring; and adding transit and parking map support to Google Pay.

“The challenge without Sengupta will be to recognize opportunities across the major initiatives,” Sloane said. “The key initiatives important to driving greater Google Pay adoption are around enabling merchant incentives and issuer account management features.”