Apple has been interviewing senior payments industry executives to push ahead on a plan to build an electronic payments business, according to two people familiar with the process.
The company has been meeting with potential applicants for two new positions at Apple focused exclusively on building a business around the hundreds of millions of credit cards it already has on file. Apple is seeking to fill head of product and head of business development positions, one of these people said.
Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s long-time e-commerce head, has met with candidates and is currently leading the initiative, according to these sources.
“Their ambitions are very, very serious,” one of the sources said.
Apple has previously said that its customers have set up nearly 600 million iTunes accounts, the majority of which are tied to a credit card account.
Using those payment accounts as a foundation, the company is evaluating ways to make it easier for shoppers to buy physical products in apps and on the Web using their iPhones. The company is also considering how it might best help its customers make purchases in physical retail stores using only their phones and payment information stored in their iTunes accounts.
Re/code reported on these plans in January and noted that PayPal was looking to figure out a way to partner with Apple. According to a source, PayPal and Apple have continued to be engaged in talks as recently as last month. The details of those discussions are not known.
PayPal spokesman Anuj Nayar and Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment.
Apple has also considered acquiring Square, the mobile payments company started by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. Such a deal would have helped Apple quickly establish a network of retailers to begin using its service. But Apple did not pursue the deal.
On the company’s last earnings call, CEO Tim Cook did not hide the opportunity Apple sees in facilitating payments via its hardware and software, but would not confirm specific plans.
“We’re seeing that people love being able to buy content, whether it’s music or movies or books, from their iPhone, using Touch ID,” he said at the time, noting the company’s fingerprint identification technology. “It’s incredibly simple and easy and elegant. And it’s clear that there’s a lot of opportunity there.
“The mobile payments area in general is one that we’ve been intrigued with, and that was one of the thoughts behind the Touch ID. But we’re not limiting ourselves just to that.”
While sources say Apple is now committed to acting on this opportunity, the fact that the company has only recently been interviewing for senior positions indicates that it has likely not settled on specific rollout plans.