Meet Thomas, the Industry Leader Banking & Fintech Google Germany
In this interview, we talk to Thomas Grosse – Industry Leader Banking & Fintech Google Germany (https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomas-grosse-4a07494/). During the interview, we talk to him about Google, Google Pay and Fintechs in Germany. During the interview, he also talks about partnerships and opportunities to contact him. You can learn more here: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/de-de/
We are media partners of Euro Finance Tech and we have been there to talk to some startups for you.
00:06 Host: Welcome to startuprad.io, your podcast and YouTube blog covering the German startup scene with news, interviews and live events.
00:20 Joe: Hello and welcome everybody, this is Joe from startuprad.io here again for you at the Euro Finance Tech in lovely and now almost sunny Frankfurt. I do have Thomas here, hello welcome.
00:33 Thomas: Thank you for having me.
00:36 Joe: You’re very welcome because you’re not really from a startup anymore, you are officially the industry leader banking fintech for Google, Germany, which is I believe at heart still a startup, right?
00:50 Thomas: We hope so, at least in certain areas. We try to have a culture which is quite innovative and so we to try to have that still going but I guess with now 80,000 people within Google, there are some structures which are maybe not as a startup anymore.
01:09 Joe: Talking about Google, when we first talked before, we met at this event, the first thing I was thinking about Google the application process. There are rumors out there for people who had to go through like 20, 30 interviews, how was it for you? Did you also have to go through this tiring process?
01:31 Thomas: It was actually five interviews for me, I think the standard is actually four interviews. How that works is you upload your application and I think Google gets over 1 billion or 2 million applications on a yearly basis. Also, there’s a filtering process at the beginning and then when you get invited you have four interviews. You are normally interviewed by the hiring manager, as in normally a team member, so somebody in your team where you will be working in the future. And then, you have two people from different areas within Google, the idea is that we get a really good overall picture.
It’s not only about the functional fit, meaning do you bring the direct skills for the position but also, we really want to make sure that the cultural fit is there as well. Because the idea behind it is you might be working in the position you are hired at for let’s say two to three years and then it might be something totally different at Google. We just want to make sure that you actually fit within the company not just as a role you’re actually taking on the first time.
02:45 Joe: Before that, you’ve been actually quite busy because you did a lot of stuff in financial services, in consulting before, right? So, we might tell them that you have been at different banks, at a well-known international consultancy and stuff, did it help you to prepare you for the job?
03:05 Thomas: To a certain extent, yes because as I mentioned earlier, I’m responsible for our business with banks and larger Fintech’s here in Germany. Since I was working in the banking industry for almost 12 years, it definitely was because I know the industry and I guess banking is quite complex as well and having some insights into it does help with helping banks with Google products. So, that did help me to a certain extent, but you also have to start thinking in a different way as well. Within Google you have different products, there’s a different speed of innovation, I would say the speed is different, it’s faster. So, you have to adapt to a certain extent but if you bring both together, it did help.
03:54 Joe: Talking about FinTech financial services, where does Google actually work in financial services?
04:02 Thomas: Actually, it’s gotten more complex. As you probably know, we are not a bank, so we don’t really offer financial services ourselves, with one exception. We offer Google pay which is a product we are cooperating closely with banks, for example, MasterCard and Visa, to provide payment services over our mobile phones, over Android and also our Chrome browser and Appstore. So, this is a product where we pretty much provide the user interface, so the first entry point and all the processing are pretty much done by the banks. So, this may be one exception and then banks are working with Google a lot on transitioning our customer retail marketing products especially retail banks who want to reach new customers, who want to maybe even reach customers they currently have.
They use Google to first understand the customer journey better, which got more complex, what is the best tailored message to get products and ideas across? Since we are very present with digital space, with YouTube, with Google search and so on, we are a platform for reaching customers at the end through marketing. This is traditionally one of the big areas where we’re working together with banks. It’s also about the analytics part, understanding your customer, understanding the customer journey, understanding which process potential customer is currently in, maybe buying a product.
So, this is like probably the bread and butter business for Google and then we are also entering the cloud business just recently. This is something which goes a lot beyond retail banking because having a good data strategy, making sure you have the analytical capabilities is something which is probably viable for all kind of banks be the retail bank, a commercial bank or an investment bank.
06:12 Joe: You already hinted at Google Pay, what are your expectations for this tool, for this service here in Germany?
06:21 Thomas: Well, let’s start with the long-term view, the long-term view is we believe that mobile payments, especially in five to ten years, is going to be one of the major ways to pay. I would say Germany is probably not the market which is going to go the fastest there. I mean, there are other markets like Russia or Scandinavia where they’re a much more credit based, cashless society, so it’s going to take longer here. But we’re here for the long run, so we do see some good numbers already and we think it’s going to be progressing even further. Once the people experience that it’s a great user experience, it’s even more convenient than using your credit card or having to scramble for cash when you pay at a supermarket, we just think the adaption is going to proceed. So, the main reason is, since Android provides one of the two big operating systems, we want to have a great user experience for users using their mobile device to pay.
07:33 Joe: I have to admit that was very diplomatic without saying even one number, right?
07:41 Thomas: You’re correct, I would love to share numbers, but I’m not allowed.
07:44 Joe: Oh, that’s so sad. You already talked about like cash-loving Germany, I myself do at least fifty, maybe ninety percent of my transactions that I do in person, like in cash. Is this the main obstacle you have here in Germany or is it rather, oh, that’s some diggy stuff, that’s unsecured or something like this? What do you think are your main obstacles?
08:15 Thomas: I would say this is probably one. I mean, a lot of German people love cash, they like to pay that way, you have to have a good reason for them to do it in a different way. Traditionally, probably another obstacle is actually merchants themselves because I think a lot of merchants do also like cash transactions or they still think the fees are to a high when you use the credit card. Some merchants don’t know yet that there was a European Union regulation that credit card fees came down and actually the fee to use credit cards is actually not there anymore but it’s like a lot of habit going on. That’s why I think first it takes a long time as I said earlier, and the key thing is to have like such a good use case and such a good payment experience which is far superior to paying in cash. Because if there’s not a big difference or it doesn’t bring you a lot why would you want to change, right?
09:21 Joe: Talking about you being the industry leader banking and Fintech, so we already talked just a tiny bit about Google pay, what are other areas are you, like Google, interested in financial services?
09:37 Thomas: I would say from a product perspective it is the payment area. We don’t have any plans to enter any other product field partly ourselves, so I think the rest which is interesting is more the things I talked about earlier. Our analytic capabilities, data management, how to reach customers, having a good overall marketing platform to reach out to your customers over all the digital media, this is more the partnering approach to help banks reach their customers overall.
10:20 Joe: We should tell our viewers who have no background in financial services, payments sound pretty easy, you slide the card through and that’s it, but actually there’s like a huge network behind it. The really fascinating stuff is it’s not one network, it’s like hundreds of networks globally that somehow work together to always get the payment in right slot like there is no global backbone of payments or something like this. Do you think that will change over time?
10:51 Thomas: Well, that’s a tough question for me to answer. You’re totally right, it’s a complex process and obviously, payment is such a sensitive issue, everything has to work a hundred percent and it’s also different from country to country. So, there’re different service providers involved, and every country does it a little bit differently. Will that change, I’m not sure, at least I haven’t seen it with the emergence of mobile payments. So, the underlying structure and processes behind it have not changed and so it might but it might also just stay as it has for the last three to four years.
11:33 Joe: You’re also like a FinTech lead, so you work actively with Fintech’s in startups?
11:42 Thomas: Correct, yeah. My team and I, we are actually focusing on bigger clients, so we don’t work with every financial startup here. We are working with fintech’s which have already a decent size where they have like more complex problems. Let’s say you are a Fintech and you are thinking about leaving Germany and entering a different market, we have a big network and we could help with your expansion strategy. So, my team is actually there for the more complexed questions, so you’re not working with every Fintech or startup in the financial service, we’re here for the larger ones or people who are growing fast.
12:29 Joe: Do you reach out to them or would they be able to somehow reach out to you?
12:34 Thomas: It can’t go both ways. I mean, how it normally is, if you are a startup and that comes also to banks, you do have certain touch spots with Google anyway, right? Even if you just started, you do a little bit of advertisement online, so you are already probably a partner or customer with us. What we internally look at, at Google is okay, where do we see the complexity rising? Where do we think a more tailored relationship model makes sense with people, with my team, with a lot of experts and then we even reach out to startups and discuss it with them. Also, startups can come to us and suggest okay hey, we’ve worked with you guys in a certain way before I think this has to change, so it can go both ways. So, my team and I, we do look at it on a regular basis.
13:32 Joe: For startups approaching you, how would that work? Is there like a certain website?
13:40 Thomas: Well, to get in contact with Google I think the two main areas which are probably interesting for startups is the whole marketing side. So, how do you want to reach your customers as I mentioned earlier and the main product for that when you start off is adverts? When you go to the adverts home page you see a phone number you can just call somebody and that would be the first touch point there. The same is true for the cloud, so you go on googlecloud.com and you can also reach out to people there as well, if you have a question, if you want to maybe start thinking about using Google products. If you’re bigger, you can at the end sent me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org as well but maybe the first entry point should be maybe a little bit more product specific.
14:33 Joe: Great, thank you very much, it was a pleasure having you here.
14:36 Thomas: Thank you for taking the time.
14:42 Host: That’s all folks. Find more news, streams, events, and interviews at www.startuprad.io. Remember sharing is caring.