"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.

For most folks, paying bills and managing a budget are daily concerns, too mundane for any deeper consideration.

But in an increasingly cashless consumer society, we might have reached a point where that's going to change, says Moven President Alex Sion.

"What is this business of money? That is being changed dramatically as we speak."

Moven finds itself sitting at an intersection of mobile payments, mobile banking, and big data analysis, offering up a banking service through a debit card backed by CBW bank and an app with an embedded PFM platform that tracks and details spending for its users.

The company doesn't say how many users it has. But it has raised nearly $13 million in funding so far from investors in the U.S. and Russia and has expanded service to Canada and New Zealand.

Sion says one of Moven's compelling pitches is that there is an opportunity to finally make PFM work.

But he is quick to back away from associating Moven's approach to PFM with the industry's stand-by definition, which conjures up images of charts and lengthy forms and spreadsheets.

"Don't think of PFM as budgeting or 'money management.' If you do, you’re dead right out of the gate," he says.

To be successful, Sion says PFM has to recognize most ordinary people like to use their time spending their money, not budgeting.

So PFM developers and advocates: stop preaching to people about being penny wise.

"Nobody likes to manage their money, and nobody likes to budget in particular. People do like to spend money and buy things that they enjoy. PFM in the classic sense is all about managing their money, but it is not connected conceptually to spending or payments, other than in the rearview mirror. Typically it’s not connected to everyday behavior.

"A PFM offering has to be connected to banking. I don’t mean products or interest rates; I’m talking about the banking experience, the everyday money experience. Consumers view banking as, 'I want to buy stuff in life, and I have to spend money to do things.' Enabling consumers to purchase things that they want in smart ways -- that’s what we’re focused on."


Sion explains the method that Moven employs. In order to help you with your money, it is connected to how the money moves from spending to savings.

App users get an automatically categorized mobile receipt within seconds of buying something. They can view a graph that uses a red/yellow/green color system charting their average spend compared to the actual amount they’ve spent for a month. They also get a monthly money report that shows users how they are spending their money.

Moven’s mobile banking and payments app for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS is connected to a MasterCard debit card and contactless payment sticker.

Moven has released a version of its banking app for Motorola’s Moto 360 and Samsung’s Gear smartwatches, with the goal of reaching early-adopters and helping them to be aware of excessive spending. Company executives have the Apple Watch and other wearables squarely in their sights.

The firm though is looking beyond technological offering and at the profile of the consumer society itself. Sion points to how consumer spending is being transformed into slices -- Uber, Venmo, Acorns and Starbucks come to his mind.

"We are predicting a wholesale transformation of how everyday money works, how people buy things, what they expect when they buy things and the experience around payments, both before and after a purchase. We’re placing a big bet that’s going to change completely.

"The anchor of that change is that consumers need help to understand their financial behaviors and become more aware of them in this frictionless payments environment. We have to help them to make better spending decisions, establish better spending behaviors and save more. PFM offers the value proposition of offering such help in this environment."

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