Acorns hires former Amazon executive as president and says crypto investments are coming

Acorns President David Hijirida

Courtesy: Mo Osborne | Acorns

The investment and savings app Acorns has hired a former Amazon executive and fintech CEO to run day-to-day operations ahead of the start-up’s debut as a publicly traded company, CNBC has learned.

According to CEO Noah Kerner, the company will announce on Wednesday that it has named David Hijirida as president. Hijirida began his career in strategic positions at traditional banks, spent 12 years at Amazon in global payments and advertising, and was CEO of the digital bank Simple Finance from 2018 until it closed in May.

Acorns is stocking up ahead of its expected public listing later this year with experienced managers. In May, the company announced that it had partnered with Pioneer Merger Corp. Last month, the company named Twitter CEO Rich Sullivan as its new chief financial officer.

“David obviously has a great depth and breadth of financial services and technology experience,” Kerner said in a telephone interview. “He has a great combination of fintech, payments, operations and product development experience.”

Hijirida’s appointment will allow the CEO to focus on his vision for the fintech company, including future products and branding, Kerner said. Acorns has more than 4 million paying subscribers and aims to reach 10 million by 2025, he said.

Noah Kerner, CEO of Acorns.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

While many startups have been able to stay private because of adequate access to capital, Acorns is going public to accelerate its mission to help people build wealth, Kerner said. This will help raise his profile with potential users, allow him to acquire goals and eventually expand outside of the US, he said.

Without naming specific companies, Kerner contrasted Acorns’ business model with the approach used by banks and fintech players to encourage users to spend money or trade more frequently. The free trading app Robinhood, which went public in July, came under fire for relying on industry kickbacks known as payment for the flow of orders, a practice that is being investigated by regulators.

Acorns’ automated investment service allows customers to invest in a managed portfolio of ETFs for a monthly fee of $ 1 to $ 5 change from card transactions.

“Everything Acorns does is about long-term saving and investing for the everyday consumer,” said Kerner. “This is why our subscription model is so important because it decouples business from behaviors that are not necessarily customer-centric, such as driving commerce or spending or borrowing.”

As a result, Acorns has been more conservative than some fintech peers who have driven rapid growth by adding features, including buying bitcoin and other digital coins. On its website, Acorns says that users currently do not have access to cryptocurrencies because their value “can fluctuate dramatically in a day,” what is called a speculative investment.

But in the recent sign of continued adoption of the emerging asset class, Acorns will soon allow users to invest in diversified portfolios in crypto, Kerner said.

“We’re going to allow people to customize their portfolios and add individual stocks and crypto to part of their diversified portfolio, much like what an asset manager would advise you to do,” Kerner said.

This will be done as part of educating users about the benefits of wealth diversification, he said.

“We haven’t announced a start date yet,” said Kerner, “but it’s coming.”

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns, and CNBC has a content partnership with them.

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