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Facebook VP says company has ‘very, very big plans' on digital payments

Max Zahn with Andy Serwer
·3 min read
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The Facebook (FB)-backed digital currency diem is set to begin a trial later this year, marking the company's first foray into cryptocurrency since its embattled Libra project, CNBC reported on Tuesday. 

The plans come months after the formation last August of Facebook Financial, a division that oversees online payments, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on an earnings call that month would "only grow as a trend."

In a new interview, Carolyn Everson — vice president of Facebook's Global Business Group — doubled down on the company's commitment to digital payments, saying it has "very, very big plans" in the area. She emphasized the importance of expanding direct payments between users as well as between users and businesses, saying the company wants such services to be available "globally."

"We certainly have very, very big plans around being able to facilitate payments between businesses and people and people to people," says Everson, an executive at the company since 2011.

"We see being able to provide payment services globally as a really important service that we need to provide to both businesses and consumers," she adds.

"Many people have said — whether it's [Vaynermedia CEO] Gary Vaynerchuk or [Andreessen Horowitz Co-founder] Marc Andreessen — we're on the cusp of the next major, major evolution around the future of fintech," she says. "I think it's a super exciting area."

Everson cited digital payment tools already on its platforms, such as Facebook Pay, a feature available to users in the United States and nearly 20 other countries that allows them to send each other money over Facebook Messenger. The payment tool keeps users on the platform who might otherwise leave for apps like Venmo or Paypal (PYPL), thereby increasing engagement and ad revenue, The Verge observed last August.

The company also offers Instagram Checkout, which enables businesses to receive direct payments from customers on the Instagram app, Everson noted.

The payment tools make up part of a broader effort to improve the company's services for small businesses, as they recover from the COVID-19 downturn and seek to keep up with the accelerated adoption of e-commerce, she said.

"You will continue to see us roll out new products and services, really with the goal of helping businesses not only replace the revenue that they have lost, but hopefully be able to add new revenue streams and find new consumers globally," she says.

Facebook's effort to create a global digital currency called Libra drew backlash two years ago from lawmakers in Washington D.C. and ultimately lost support from major payment companies that had backed the project. 

In October 2019, members of Congress grilled Zuckerberg over Libra, and he acknowledged that Facebook may need to alter its plans if it did not receive regulatory approval from the U.S. That month, a slew of payment companies — including Mastercard and Visa — left the Libra Association, the group behind the project. Facebook scaled down the project last April, the New York Times reported.

Carolyn Everson, vice president of Facebook's global business group, speaks with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer on
Carolyn Everson, vice president of Facebook's global business group, speaks with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer on "Influencers with Andy Serwer."

Everson spoke to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

She joined Facebook a decade ago, leading the company's advertising division and cultivating relationships with top advertisers. Over her tenure, the company's annual advertising revenue has exploded from $3.1 billion in 2011 to $84.1 billion last year.

Prior to her tenure at Facebook, she held executive roles at tech and media companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Viacom (VIAC), and Zagat.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Everson said she devotes a significant portion of her time to digital currency and other related issues.

"That's something that I spend a lot of my time very focused on, in terms of the future of cryptocurrency and NFT's and digital wallets," she says. "I am super passionate and interested in that space." 

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