JPMorgan Chase has hired Alex Sion, co-founder of the mobile-only neobank Moven, to lead its mobile apps.

The move is an example of how financial institutions are looking to fintech entrepreneurs to bring innovation in, and it illustrates the emphasis and importance banks are putting on their mobile channels. It's also the latest round of musical chairs for big banks' digital channel executives.

Sion will start his new job, executive director of mobile banking at Chase, on Oct. 3.

"My new role is to keep promoting mobile leadership and innovation across all of Chase's mobile assets," Sion said in an email interview. "Chase is absolutely committed to leading the pack in digital."

"The differences are actually getting smaller" between fintech and banking, says Alex Sion, who is leaving his startup to work at the country's largest financial institution.
"The differences are actually getting smaller" between fintech and banking, says Alex Sion, who is leaving his startup to work at the country's largest financial institution.

Sion is not new to the challenges of working in a big bank. He was at one time senior vice president of wealth management at Citigroup. What's it like to go from the banking world to the fintech world and back?

"The differences are actually getting smaller since we're all trying to accomplish most of the same things for the customer: make banking more simple and personal," Sion said. "That wasn't the focus when Moven first started. So, for banks like Chase, who are committed to customer-centricity and digital leadership, the differences become mainly around managing scale."

Sion will work with the bank's digital team at 5 Manhattan West, a space that was recently renovated to foster agile development, with designated scrum rooms, play areas and white boards galore. He will report to Jason Alexander, executive director of digital platforms, who reports to Bill Wallace, a Chase veteran who took Gavin Michael's position as head of digital for consumer banking in August, when Michael left to head consumer technology for Citi. Michael replaced Mark Torkos, who retired in July.

Chase's mobile app has 25 million active users. "Mobile is becoming more and more central to the banking experience, so Alex will develop and drive the evolution of that mobile strategy and execution across Chase," said spokeswoman Rebecca Acevedo.

"We're seeing the importance of digital in all our businesses as customers continue to turn to digital to complete many of their banking tasks. We want our digital experiences to be simple, personal, human and cohesive."

Moven's other co-founder, Brett King, not only wishes Sion well but spent several months hashing over his different job offers with him.

"We talked a lot about the opportunities that were presenting themselves to Alex," King said. "He had a number of offers, as you'd imagine. We talked through what was best for his career and also what was best for Moven. We both agreed that from a visibility perspective, this move to Chase would be seen as a win for Moven; it showed the credibility of his pedigree with Moven."

King noted that Sion has been at Moven for six years. "It's not like he didn't give it a fair shot," King said. "And also, the business is fairly mature now. We've been going from that early stage to a growth company and it requires some different skills." Such skills include being able to deliver revenue and sales consistently.

"It's not that Alex can't do that stuff, but I think he wanted a challenge again," King said. "Taking on 25 million mobile users at Chase, that's about as big as a challenge gets."

At Moven, this transition has been in the works for months. Mircea Mihaescu, chief operating officer, and a couple of other team members have taken over Sion's responsibilities. "The transition has been lengthy and has been handled by Alex," King said.

Moven, which recently signed on TD Bank and Westpac New Zealand as clients, has a couple of big banks in the pipeline to join as customers late this year or early next year. The company has also recently hired people in Europe and Asia to help oversee regional operations.

This isn't the first time a bank has poached a Moven executive. Mohamed Khalil, who used to be Moven's head of product, data and partnerships, became chief innovation officer at Commonwealth Bank of Australia just over a year ago.

"The overall message is we're proud of Alex and we think it's a great opportunity for him," King said. "He's done Moven proud."