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JPMorgan Chase’s Card Services Chief Steps Down

The highest echelons of JPMorgan’s staffing ranks in its consumer unit are getting a big reshuffling.

As reported by various news outlets, including Bloomberg, an internal memo from Gordon Smith, JPMorgan’s chief executive officer, announced that Eileen Serra — who is widely regarded as one of the most powerful women in the banking industry — will be stepping down as the head of the financial giant’s card business, to be succeeded by Kevin Watters, who has served as head of the bank’s mortgage operations. 

News reports said Serra, who had been with JPMorgan for the past nine years, will remain with the company in a consulting role, while Mike Weinbach will replace Watters in the mortgage role. Weinbach has been, up till now, head of mortgage servicing operations.

In an interview with Reuters, Weinbach said that “the homeowner is getting much healthier, so if you look at the number of underwater homes in the U.S. it’s down by almost two-thirds from the peak in 2010, and our portfolio’s gotten healthier at an even faster clip than that.”

Regarding Serra’s departure from a full-time role at the company, the move marks a sunset to a tenure that helped launch the company’s Chase Pay digital payments platform.

The transition comes, however, as the consumer and community banking segment garnered $32 billion in revenues through the first nine months of the year, down slightly from the year ago period, but still indicating a healthy clip of business. 

The shuffle may indeed be tied to personal reasons – as Serra had been noted in the CEO memo as requesting to step down so that she would be able to juggle time and “other interests.” But the larger issue is if there will be a change of direction in the company’s mobile strategy. The debut of Pay, after all, is nigh but two months old – at least in terms of being announced – and is slated to launch in mid-2016. The partnership with Merchant Customer Exchange looks intact, with a tie in to reward programs that join with the mobile wallet. 

The field is a crowded one, with Samsung, Apple and Android all vying for a slice of the mobile payments pie.  The changing of the guard at JPMorgan may imply that the launch is on track and may need minimal steering at this point from Serra. 

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