Google teams up with Citibank on mobile-first accounts

Expect other financial institutions to unveil their Plex offerings too.

In addition to revamping its Pay app, Google also announced new Plex banking accounts today. General manager Caesar Sengupta explained in an online event today that Plex is built on federal checking and savings accounts and will combine “the best of Google’s design and technology... with the financial expertise and regulatory experience of our banking partners.” The first bank to announce a Plex offering is Citibank. Citi Plex will be available on Google Pay next year, though a waitlist for consumers opens today.

According to Sengupta, “Plex would put you more in control of your finances.” It uses the new Google Pay app and Sengupta said a number of employees have been using Plex accounts by Citi and the Stanford Federal Credit Union since the company started this project last year. You can join the waitlist to get a Plex account via the Pay app from one of these or nine other financial institutions.

These include BMO Harris, BBVA, Coastal Community Bank, Seattle Bank, Harbour Bank of Maryland and First Indepence Bank there. There are also trade unions like CEFCU and newer financial institutions like Green Dot and Backmobile working on Plex accounts. At first glance, it looks like Plex is basically a way for these financial institutions to offer a powerful banking app the same way major competitors like Bank of America and CapitalOne already do. But you’ll also get built-in money transfers via Pay instead of through Zelle, which might be more widely used given the number of people who have Google accounts.

Plex by Google
Google (Screenshot)

Incoming CEO of Citibank Jane Fraser also appeared on Google’s virtual event, saying the Citi Plex account is “a new way to bank.” Today’s customer is of a new generation that wants a “fresh, relevant and better relationship with their money,” Fraser said. “We want to empower them with an account that provides smart very smart financial services built from the ground up with financial wellness and mobile functionality at the very core of the design.”

You’ll create an account from your phone, and “within minutes your whole bank is on your phone,” Fraser said. There are no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, and the app offers “AI-powered insights to help users save more and set their saving goals.” You’ll get a digital Mastercard debit card instantly and a physical contactless card upon request.

You can also use the Pay app to send money to your friends directly from your account, manage transactions, get real-time updates on payments, paychecks, refunds and more. Fraser said there will also be “some really unique rewards and some very cool features,” but did not share more details on those. She also stressed that security is important, and though she did not go more in-depth on that, it’s likely Plex accounts will rely on Google’s security features for its app.

For those who already rely on a mobile banking app, most of these features will seem familiar. With Google helping smaller or less-savvy financial institutions offer competent app-powered accounts to more users, banking in America might just get more modern.