The logo for Google Pay displayed on a phone screen. Jakub Porzycki | NurPhoto via Getty Images
At least one tech giant has decided it’s better to serve banks rather than taking them head on. Google is shuttering its bank account product nearly two years after announcing ambitious plans to take on the retail finance industry. One key factor:
The new head of the business, Bill Ready, decided that he’d rather develop a digital banking and payments ecosystem instead of competing with banks, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
For the past few years, bank executives and investors have shuddered whenever a tech giant disclosed plans to break into finance. With good reason: Tech giants have access to hundreds of millions of users and their data and a track record for transforming industries like media and advertising.
But the reality has proven less disruptive so far. While Amazon was reportedly exploring bank accounts in 2018, the project has yet to materialize. Uber reined in its fintech ambitions last year. Facebook was forced to rebrand its crypto project amid a series of setbacks.
“We’re updating our approach to focus primarily on delivering digital enablement for banks and other financial services providers rather than us serving as the provider of these services,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.
Google, which is owned by parent company Alphabet, could help banks provide more secure ways for consumers to make online purchases like via virtual cards or single-use tokens. That’s according to the person with knowledge of the company who declined to be identified speaking about business strategy. Those methods cut down on fraud by protecting users’ credit-card numbers.
Google may have ultimately decided it wasn’t worth antagonizing current and prospective customers for its various businesses, including cloud computing, according to a Friday research note from Wells Fargo..banking analyst Mike Mayo.
In recent years, Google has funneled more resources to its cloud business, which still lags behind Amazon and Microsoft in market share. However, it has made steady gains under cloud boss Thomas Kurian, who, along with Google CEO Sundar Pichai, has repeatedly touted financial services as a target in terms of customers they hope to attract.
“Banks are worried about disintermediation, and I think it’s likely that Google executives were getting signals that banks weren’t on board with what Google was going to do,” said Peter Wannemacher, a Forrester Research analyst who advises banks on digital efforts. “They made the bet that there was a greater gain in selling to banks rather than selling to customers.”
Being the customer-facing entity for banks may have risked inviting greater regulatory and Congressional scrutiny, he said. As it is, the public has already become suspicious of technology firms’ reach, he added.
“Financial services is a difficult space to get into,” Wannemacher said. “Everyone knows that, but it’s often more vexing and knotty than people expect.”
Students in Montclair State University’s dual-certification program (Jackie Mader / Hechinger Report)
Strong progress has been made to integrate students with disabilities into general-education classrooms. Educator instruction hasn’t kept up. When Mary Fair became a teacher in 2012, her classes often contained a mix of special-education students and general-education students. Placing children with and without disabilities in the same classroom, instead of segregating them, was a growing national trend, spurred by lawsuits by special-education advocates.
But in those early days, Fair had no idea how to handle her students with disabilities, whose educational challenges ranged from learning deficits to behavioral disturbance disorders. Calling out a child with a behavioral disability in front of the class usually backfired and made the situation worse. They saw it as “an attack and a disrespect issue,” Fair said.
Over time, Fair figured out how to navigate these situations and talk students “down from the ledge.” She also learned how to keep students with disabilities on task and break down lessons into smaller, easier bits of information for those who were struggling.
No one taught her these strategies. Although she earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate in math instruction for both elementary and middle school, she never had to take a class about students with disabilities. She was left to figure it out on the job.
Many teacher-education programs offer just one class about students with disabilities to their general-education teachers, “Special Ed 101,” as it’s called at one New Jersey college. It’s not enough to equip teachers for a roomful of children who can range from the gifted to students who read far below grade level due to a learning disability.
A study in 2007 found that general-education teachers in a teacher-preparation program reported taking an average of 1.5 courses focusing on inclusion or special education, compared to about 11 courses for special-education teachers. Educators say little has changed since then.
A 2009 study concluded that no one explicitly shows teachers how to teach to “different needs.” Because of time constraints, the many academic standards that must be taught, and a lack of support, “teachers are not only hesitant to implement individualized instruction, but they do not even know how to do so,” the report stated.
Fair says teacher-preparation programs should be doing more. At the very least, “You should have a special-education class and an English language learner class,” she said. “You’re going to have those students.”
Between 1989 and 2013, the percentage of students with disabilities who were in a general education class for 80 percent or more of the school day increased from about 32 percent to nearly 62 percent. Special-education advocates have been pushing for the change—especially for students who have mild to moderate disabilities like a speech impairment—in some cases by suing school districts.
Some research shows as many as 85 percent of students with disabilities can master general-education content if they receive educational supports. Supports can include access to a special-education teacher, having test questions read aloud, or being allowed to sit in a certain part of the classroom.
Students with disabilities who are placed in general-education classrooms get more instructional time, have fewer absences, and have better post-secondary outcomes. Studies also show there is no negative impact on the academic achievement of non-disabled students in an inclusion classroom; those students benefit socially by forming positive relationships and learning how to be more at ease with a variety of people.
Alla Vayda-Manzo, the principal of Bloomfield Middle School about 30 miles outside of New York City, said she’s seen the benefit of inclusion for students. The school serves about 930 students, nearly 20 percent of whom have a disability, according to state data. When students with disabilities are included in classrooms with their peers, Vayda-Manzo said the high expectations and instructional strategies “lend themselves to those students being more successful than they would be had they been in a separate, self-contained environment.”“It’s not just getting a child included … that is only a small portion of the battle.”
But as more districts move to make classrooms inclusive, they’ve been caught flat footed when it comes to finding teachers prepared to make the shift. Academic outcomes for students with disabilities have remained stagnant for years, even as more students with special needs are integrated into general-education classrooms. Students with disabilities are less likely to graduate and more likely to earn an alternate diploma that is not equivalent to a general diploma in the eyes of many colleges and employers. And year after year, they score far lower than their peers on standardized exams.
Experts say the problem is that it takes much more than just placing students with disabilities next to their general-education peers: Teachers must have the time, support, and training to provide a high-quality education based on a student’s needs.
Mike Flom, a parent and co-founder of the advocacy group New Jersey Parents and Teachers for Appropriate Education, said many factors impact inclusion’s effectiveness. His twin sons, now in seventh grade, were placed in an inclusion classroom beginning in fifth grade. Initially, Flom said his sons had “mixed reviews” on whether inclusion was beneficial.
“I think the teachers were really motivated to be helpful,” Flom said. “I don’t know the extent to which they were permitted to do the things, or had enough training to do the things, that were required to be more effective.”“It’s not just getting a child included … that is only a small portion of the battle,” he added.
These days, Mary Fair navigates her classrooms with ease. She has learned through experience how to teach students with a variety of disabilities and works with a veteran special-education teacher to modify lesson plans and tests.
On a recent morning in a seventh-grade math-inclusion classroom at Bloomfield Middle School, Fair and her co-teacher, the special-education teacher Christina Rodriguez, started a lesson on the order of operations.
Fair stepped up to the front of the classroom as Rodriguez circulated to make sure students were on task.“We’re starting order of operations,” Fair said. “It’s something you did in sixth grade, but today we are doing it differently.”“Ms. Fair, I want to see if they remember,” Rodriguez said to Fair, who smiled and nodded.“Put your hand up if you remember what the order of operations is,” Rodriguez said.More than half of the students raised their hands
“Who remembers ‘PEMDAS’?” Rodriguez asked, referring to the mnemonic device used to remember order of operations (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, Addition and Subtraction). More students eagerly shot their hands in the air.
Fair cut in and explained that although they learned PEMDAS in sixth grade, they were going to learn a new rule about the order of operations today. “Take your yellow paper and fold it horizontally,” Fair said, referring to a yellow sheet of paper that sat on each student’s desk.“Like this,” Rodriguez said, holding up a piece of paper and demonstrating how to fold it horizontally.“Like a hamburger,” Fair added.
To an outsider, it’s impossible to tell who is the general-education teacher and who is the special-education teacher. Both Fair and Rodriguez have desks at the front of the room. They switch off during lessons, effortlessly picking up where the other has left off. They both give directions and explain content. They are careful not to fall into what educators say is a common trap: seeing general-education students as the responsibility of one teacher, and special-education students as the responsibility of the other.
That’s how a good inclusion class should be, Rodriguez said, but it takes practice and time. Like Fair, Rodriguez didn’t receive any training in special education before she entered the classroom. She became a teacher through an alternate program. When she got a job teaching special education six years ago, she relied on strategies she learned while working as an aide in a class for students with autism. In 2014, she received her master’s degree in teaching students with disabilities from New Jersey City University; she now teaches a class for Montclair State University’s dual-certification teacher-preparation program.
Although most traditional teacher-preparation programs nationwide do include some training on students with disabilities, usually in the form of one course over the entirety of the program, educators say this course is often generic and perfunctory. Aspiring teachers also may be given assignments in other classes that require them to adapt a lesson for a hypothetical special-education student.
Fair said she had some assignments like those, but “we didn’t really know what we were talking about, because we weren’t taught it.” Her colleague, the science teacher Jessica Herrera, said she was only offered one class in special education—called “Special Education 101”—when she went through a traditional teacher-preparation program in New Jersey.
“A lot of my training was for that ‘middle of the road’ kind of kid,” Herrera said. “I was prepared for the regular ed student.” In her 13 years as a teacher, Herrera has taught some inclusion classes; she said she picked up strategies from working with “good special-education teachers.” When she earned her master’s degree from Montclair State, she was finally taught how to teach a “range of learners,” she said.
Fair and her co-teacher Rodriguez say there are certain things they wish were included in all teacher-education programs, like an explanation of the different kinds of disabilities and ways to address the various struggles students may encounter. They also say teacher preparation should include more classroom management and “subtle ways” to keep students focused and on task.
Mimi Corcoran, the president of the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), said teacher preparation should better address topics in special education. “We do a disservice to the teachers we’re sending [to schools] in the way we’re training, and we’re doing a disservice to kids,” Corcoran said. “We’ve got to step up to the plate and think differently and act differently, and that’s hard because everybody gets comfortable and systems are hard to change.”
Some teacher-preparation programs are trying to better prepare graduates to teach students with disabilities, especially in inclusion classrooms. At Syracuse University, George Theoharis, a professor and the chair of Teaching and Leadership, said the school’s elementary special-education program has been one of the leaders nationwide in training educators for inclusive education.
Every teacher who graduates from Syracuse’s Early Childhood or Elementary Education program is dual-certified in special education and spends time in inclusion classrooms. Theoharis says it’s an approach that more preparation programs should take. “All of our programs need to be inclusive,” Theoharis said, referring to teacher preparation. “Regardless of what job teachers get, people need to be prepared to work with all children and see all children as their responsibility.”
Jennifer Goeke, a Montclair State professor and the program coordinator, said the dual-certification program prepares teachers to be hired as either a general- education or special-education teacher. “They know how to perform both roles easily and effectively,” Goeke said.
On a recent afternoon, Goeke was holding class in the Bloomfield Middle School media center. She asked her 17 students to first discuss issues they were having in their “fieldwork classrooms,” where they are currently observing and working with general- and special-education teachers. She listened to a few descriptions of struggles and then reminded her students that part of their job is to be an example for other teachers.
“I’m not trying to minimize or trivialize what you might be learning in your content area,” Goeke said. “It’s very important that you have a strong grounding in the methodology and the philosophy of your discipline … and know how to teach your content.” But, Goeke added, “You have to remember that most people do not have any diverse learners in mind. Their training did not teach them to take those students into account.”
In Montclair’s program, students work with two mentor teachers for a year in an inclusion classroom and in small-group settings. They receive extensive training in how to work with students with disabilities as well as how to effectively teach content, like math and science, or grade levels, like early education or elementary education.
Bloomfield chose to partner with the iSTeM program in 2012, and has hired two graduates of the program, and offered teaching positions to several more, who eventually chose jobs in other districts. The Bloomfield Principal, Vayda-Manzo, says the graduates of the program are “like unicorns in the field,” as it’s rare to find teachers who are dual-certified in general and special education.
Current teachers at Bloomfield have also benefited from iSTeM, Vayda-Manzo said. The program provides professional development for inclusion teachers at the school who agree to be mentor teachers for iSTeM students, and those teachers also observe each other and work with professors from Montclair State. Vayda-Manzo said the school makes sure co-teachers have the same planning periods so they have time to plan lessons together each day.
Herrera, who mentors iSTeM teachers, said the professional development provided through the program has improved her ability to teach students with disabilities. “I feel like I got a lot of additional strategies through that,” Herrera said.
On-the-job training is essential to ensure teachers have the skills needed to teach all students in their classroom, especially those teachers who may have attended teacher preparation years ago or missed out on training about disabilities, according to Mimi Corcoran of NCLD. “We have to be fair for the educator,” Corcoran said. For “many that are already in field, the concepts of special education and how to include kids has shifted, and [teachers] need the supports.”
Vayda-Manzo said it has been an easy choice to continue the program.“I saw the impact that it made in our inclusion classes,” Vayda-Manzo said. “We saw tremendous gains.”
Many young, single people assume they don’t need life insurance. Unfortunately, this misconception is difficult to reconcile before it’s too late. After all, life insurance is one of those investments that you can’t exactly buy after you need it, and if you wait too long, it’s going to cost a lot more to get it.
The purpose of life insurance is to provide a safety net so your family or loved ones won’t struggle to pay bills or handle other financial responsibilities after you’re gone—but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about it until after you have a family. Here’s what you need to know about that and other myths about life insurance that are best ignored, and what facts to consider instead.
Life insurance only matters after you die
In fact, life insurance is for the living. It’s in the name, and sure, the central reason to get life insurance is to financially protect your loved ones in the event of your death. But many life insurance policies also have living benefits, which allow you to tap into your plan in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal or chronic illness.
Another way you can benefit from your life insurance your plan while you’re still alive is through its cash value. Depending on your plan type, you may be able to build tax-deferred wealth through your policy, with the ability to make withdrawals from or take out loans against the value during your lifetime.
All life insurance is too expensive
Life insurance costs will vary depending on your age, gender, health, and specific policy. Predictably, the younger and healthier you are, the less expensive life insurance will be. For example, a healthy 35-year-old can pay under $28 per month for a term life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit payout and a duration of 20 years, according to Policy Genius.
If you’re concerned about costs, Business Insider advises you to start small. Get as much life insurance as you can afford for now, and then reassess when you are able to increase your coverage down the line. For your first plan, term life insurance is one of the most popular and affordable options. It’s a straightforward policy that provides a large assured sum assured for a low premium over an extended term, typically 10 to 30 years.
If you have health issues, consider looking into policies that don’t require medical exams.
You don’t need life insurance if you’re single with no dependents
This might be the most prevalent myth about life insurance: If no one is depending on you, why create a financial security blanket? The reality is that if you have transferable debt, like student loans, you could render your parents or other family members responsible after you’re dead. Life insurance is not just for married couples.
And while many think of life insurance as replacing lost income, even a stay-at-home parent who doesn’t receive a salary should take out life insurance. Although they may not be the traditional “breadwinner,” the cost of replacing childcare or other household duties is worth considering, and preparing for.
You should just stick with your employer’s life insurance
While many company life insurance policies are a low-cost (or even free) perk, they likely aren’t sufficient to meet your financial needs, typically offering around a year of your usual salary. Investopedia explains: “If you have dependents who rely on your income, then you probably need coverage worth at least six times your annual salary…Some experts even recommend getting coverage worth 10 to 12 times your salary.” It’s wise to supplement employer-provided insurance benefits with policies that are tailored to your needs.
The bottom line: Life insurance is not one size fits all
Take advantage of the fact that life insurance is highly customizable. And compared to other forms of insurance, your life insurance needs will change drastically over time. Think about it: Children, marriage, divorce, remarriage, caring for elderly family members, and retirement…and that’s just your thirties. (Kidding.)
Even if you don’t think you need it now, you should start with what you can afford and build coverage as your circumstances change. Nerd Wallet provides a handy table that will help you compare quotes now, and companies like Policy Genius make it easy to shop around for a good rate. But rather than rely solely on online platforms, it’s also worth consulting a real life professional.
Russia intends to use its digital ruble, to be introduced early next year, for payments with its key ally, China. Authorities in Moscow hope other nations will be willing to adopt the Russian digital currency in trade, which will allow the country to circumvent sanctions imposed over the Ukraine war.
The Central Bank of Russia is gearing up to launch settlements with the digital ruble, the new incarnation of the Russian fiat currency that’s now being tested, as early as 2023. According to a statement by a prominent member of the lower house of Russian parliament, the sanctioned nation wants to use it in payments with China, which has become Russia’s main trading partner.
Limited access to the global financial system due to financial restrictions introduced in response to its military invasion of Ukraine is forcing Russia to seek alternative means for foreign trade transactions. Alongside cryptocurrencies, the digital ruble is one of the options Moscow is considering in its efforts to bypass the sanctions.
“The topic of digital financial assets, the digital ruble and cryptocurrencies is currently intensifying in the society, as Western countries are imposing sanctions and creating problems for bank transfers, including in international settlements,” the head of the Financial Market Committee at the State Duma, Anatoly Aksakov, recently told the Parlamentskaya Gazeta newspaper.
The high-ranking lawmaker elaborated that the digital direction is key because financial flows can circumvent systems controlled by unfriendly nations. He added the next step for the central bank digital currency (CBDC) issued by the Bank of Russia would be to introduce it in mutual settlements with China. Also quoted by Reuters, Aksakov emphasized:
If we launch this, then other countries will begin to actively use it going forward, and America’s control over the global financial system will effectively end.
With the loss of markets in the West, including for energy exports, the importance of cooperation with China has increased significantly for Russia. Trade between the two countries has expanded and Russian companies have started issuing debt in Chinese yuan. Beijing is currently conducting domestic trials of its digital version, the e-CNY, and plans to use it in cross-border settlements, too.
Russia is preparing to adopt comprehensive regulations for its crypto market in the coming months, including a new bill “On Digital Currency” that will expand the legal framework established last year by the law “on Digital Financial Assets.” Russian regulators are already developing a mechanism for international crypto payments and the respective draft provisions have been already agreed upon by the central bank and the finance ministry.
Lubomir Tassev is a journalist from tech-savvy Eastern Europe who likes Hitchens’s quote: “Being a writer is what I am, rather than what I do.” Besides crypto, blockchain and fintech, international politics and economics are two other sources of inspiration.
The Bank of Russia has announced plans to connect all Russian banks to the digital ruble in 2024, as it fast-tracks plans to circumvent sanctions. Cross-border integration with the digital yuan and the central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) of other “friendly” countries” will remove the need for Swift, a central bank official said. As well as “gradually connecting all credit organisations”, the Bank of Russia will increase the number of “payment options and transactions using smart
The Central Bank of Russia emphasized that the pilot project aims to better understand the regulatory, legal, and technical aspects of CBDCs, and plans to launch an official digital ruble within a few years. Russia’s central bank’s latest monetary policy said the country plans to connect the digital ruble platform to all banks and credit institutions by 2024.
In March 2024, a new round of elections will be held on whether the current Russian President Vladimir Putin will be re-elected. By then, the digital ruble is expected to have completed customer-to-customer transaction trials and customer-to-business and business-to-customer settlements.
To facilitate the rollout of the digital ruble, the Bank of Russia will also conduct a beta test of the digital ruble-based smart contract with a limited number of participants in 2023. At the same time, it is expected that in 2025, the offline mode of the digital ruble will be completed. The Bank of Russia noted that the Russian economy is increasingly digitized, thus requiring an advanced payment system based on a government-backed digital currency.
VTB Factoring, a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned bank, reported the first major deal with digital finance assets. As part of the deal, the bank subsidiary acquired a tokenized debt pool of the engineering company Metrowagonmash, issued via the fintech platform Lighthouse. On Wednesday, June 29, VTB reported the deal on its webpage, claiming it to be the first issuance and placement of digital financial assets secured by cash in the Russian Federation. In the announcement, the bank compares it with the issue of short-term commercial bonds.
n June 2022, the largest Russian bank Sber announced its first operation with the digital financial assets (DFA) to take place in mid-July, after finally obtaining a license from the country’s central bank. While current legislation on the DFA was put in force in 2020, the head of the Financial Markets Committee of the Russian parliament’s lower chamber introduced a bill that would prohibit the use of DFA as a “monetary surrogate” in June 2022.
In February 2022, VTB conducted the first successful testing of the operation with “digital rubles,” a central bank digital currency (CBDC) project of the Bank of Russia. Later, the bank announced its first purchase of DFAs in exchange for the digital ruble. At press time, there is no information on whether the aforementioned deal was made via CBDC.
An electric warehouse forklift uses Plug Power's fuel cell system. Plug Power
Plug Power, which supplies fuel cells for electric forklifts used by Amazon and other companies, said the retail giant plans to buy thousands of tons of carbon-free “green” hydrogen from it per year in a deal that also includes an option to acquire a stake in the company worth up to $2.1 billion.
Under the agreement Plug will begin providing Amazon with 10,950 tons of liquified hydrogen per year that will be used to fuel transportation and building operations, starting in 2025. It’s the biggest such deal to date for the Latham, New York-based company, which expects to hit an annual revenue target of $3 billion by 2025 as a result.
“It’s a huge deal … it’s a huge deal for the (hydrogen) industry,” Andy Marsh, Plug Power’s CEO, tells Forbes. Along with fuel for forklifts, Amazon may also use hydrogen to power a range of vehicles used in delivery operations, including long-haul trucks, he said. “It’s the first, much larger-scale hydrogen ecosystem for Amazon where they’re really thinking about all the applications they can use hydrogen in.”
Hydrogen is expected to become a major source of electric power, along with batteries, for both vehicle propulsion, as well as an option for stationary power generation and storage. While most industrial hydrogen that’s used for oil refining, food processing and the chemical industry is currently made by extracting the element from natural gas, that method emits carbon dioxide.
Companies including Plug, Cummins, Nikola, Nel Hydrogen and many others are shifting to a new technique using electrolyzers that can make a “green” form of the fuel from electricity–ideally from renewable sources–and water that has no climate-harming carbon emissions.
Hydrogen also gets a boost from the new Inflation Reduction Act signed into law this month by President Joe Biden, which includes a production tax credit for green hydrogen worth $3 per kilogram of carbon-free fuel.
Plug, which will benefit from that credit, has sold Amazon fuel cells for its warehouse forklifts since 2016, and estimates it’s provided more than 15,000 units to date. The company aims to expand its hydrogen fuel supply business and is adding production capacity to do that. Plug has said it will be able to make 500 tons of green hydrogen per day at facilities in North America by 2025, up from a goal of 70 tons per day by the end of this year.
By 2028, it hopes to produce 1,000 tons of hydrogen per day. Amazon said the deal is part of efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across all its operations by 2040. It believes “scaling the supply and demand for green hydrogen, such as through this agreement with Plug Power, will play a key role in helping us achieve our goals,” Kara Hurst, Amazon’s vice president of sustainability at Amazon, said in a statement.
As part of the deal, Plug granted Amazon a warrant to acquire up to 16 million shares, with an exercise price of $22.98 for the first 9 million. It vests in full after Amazon spends $2.1 billion on Plug products over the seven-year term of the deal.Shares of Plug Power rose 9% to close at $30 in Nasdaq trading on Thursday.