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Google partners banks to streamline PayNow transfers

GOOGLE has, in a tie-up with banks here, revamped its payments app to allow for real-time money transfers via the PayNow rails, tapping on the surge in digital payments as Covid-19 restrictions limit physical contact.

This latest integration on the Google Pay app helps people in Singapore who have more than one bank account to streamline money transfers from different banks on one platform. It is the first non-bank payments app to offer PayNow transfers for corporates and individuals.

Singapore is the first country in South-east Asia and second in the world to offer the new version of Google Pay, following India. The launch on Thursday comes as part of the tech giant's move to capture a larger share of the burgeoning digital payments scene by offering more consolidated payment solutions, said Patrick Teo, director of engineering for Google Pay, at a media briefing.

The number of PayNow users is at an all-time high since the launch in 2017, with four million people in Singapore using the service and nearly three quarters of all organisations on the PayNow Corporate rails.

"These government-led initiatives provide a solid foundation that financial institutions and tech companies like Google can build on," said Mr Teo.

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On the revamped Google Pay app, customers of DBS PayLah!, OCBC and Standard Chartered can now link their bank accounts to Google Pay to pay anyone in Singapore via PayNow. Merchants can also receive payments through their unique entity number under PayNow Corporate or via QR codes.

"Singaporeans have multiple credit cards and bank accounts and choose what to use depending on the rewards it offers. It would be simpler to be able to access all cards and bank accounts in one place," said Mr Teo.

"We want to enables users to use Google Pay as their all-in-one payments solution."

When asked if Google's vast trove of user data gives it an edge over other payments apps in the increasingly saturated market, Mr Teo told The Business Times that the group's core strategy is underpinned by partnerships.

"We don't believe that any one company alone can bring about this digital revolution. What's important is working with governments, bank partners, merchants and system integrators as an ecosystem," he noted.

At the media briefing, OCBC head of global transaction banking Melvyn Low noted that the introduction of PayNow Corporate for businesses in 2018 had created opportunities in this space that go "far beyond just a simple payment rail". PayNow Corporate transactions hit a high of over S$3 billion in February, more than seven times higher than a year ago.

Against this backdrop, Google is expecting more PayNow transactions to merchants via Google Pay. "Merchants are able to take transactions more cost effectively and quickly," said Mr Teo.

Beyond payments, Google's latest partnership with Golden Village and Shaw allows Google Pay users to book and pay for movie tickets from the app. Since April, users were also able to order food on the platform. Mr Teo said the group is currently in talks with several banks and merchants here to grow its network.

On Thursday, UOB separately announced that it has created a new ecosystem of partners, which includes Visa, SP Group and Grab among others, to simplify digital payments and the rewards redemption process for customers.

The bank teamed up with Visa to tap a new Visa application programming interface (API) which enables customers to add their Visa credit and debit cards securely into popular apps using the bank's mobile banking app, UOB Mighty, without the need for a physical card. This process can be completed within seconds, said the lender.

UOB has also enabled its customers to offset their SP Group utility bills with the bank's rewards points directly on the SP app, as well as redeem their rewards points instantly on Singapore Airlines' KrisPay app. The bank said it will progressively expand its network of partners to further improve customer experience.

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