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JPMorgan Chase is buying college financial aid platform Frank


Charlie Javice, Founder/CEO of Frank, which is a college financial aid start-up.

Source: JP Morgan

JPMorgan Chase has acquired college planning platform Frank to deepen relationships with students and their parents, CNBC has learned exclusively.

Frank offers online tools to help students find scholarships, apply for and negotiate financial assistance and enroll in online classes. Charlie Javice launched Frank in 2017 and has helped more than five millions students to 6,000 universities.

JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, has been acquiring start-ups at a steady clip since CEO Jamie Dimon declared last year that he would be “much more aggressive” in searching for takeovers. The firm has acquired a string of fintech players to bolt-on capabilities in sustainable investing, robo-advising and constructing tax-efficient portfolios.

But in some ways this deal most resembles another recent acquisition made by JPMorgan, that of restaurant review service The Infatuation. Both transactions show that the company wants to expand its reach into specific verticals in order to build customer loyalty.

In an interview, Jennifer Roberts from Chase Consumer Banking stated that they want to build long-lasting, meaningful relationships with customers. “Charlie and her team really care about the student population. While we work with students and have over 300 branches close to universities, it gives us much greater access to students.

Jen Roberts, consumer banking CEO at JPMorgan Chase

Source: JPMorgan Chase

One-fourth of Chase customers have children aged 6 to 17 who may eventually benefit from using Frank, and the bank hopes users will sign up with Chase for their first checking accounts, said Roberts.

Frank will retain its brand and be managed by Javice (head of student solutions at JPMorgan’s digital product team). The companies declined to say how much JPMorgan is paying for Frank, which has raised more than $20 million from investors since 2017.

A JPMorgan spokeswoman said that Frank users typically come from low-to moderate-income families and are often first-time college graduates. Javice stated that the content and tools are available for free, but Frank does charge schools an annual fee.

While many companies in the financial aid arena focus on providing private student loans and refinancing — potentially shackling users with enormous debts — Javice wanted Frank to help Americans apply for federal aid.

“The goal was thinking the complete opposite of what all the student lenders and refinancers and lead generators in this market are,” Javice said. It was a way to think about financial wellbeing, similar to how we look at health care. That is what we are committed to in the areas of financial education, meeting parents and students where they are.

JPMorgan exited private student lending in 2013 after the government overhauled the market, and the bank has no plans on returning to it, according to the spokeswoman.

Javice stated that she had not met her new coworkers in person since Monday, despite having been involved in negotiations for several weeks.

Today is the first time I have ever been employed by anyone else,” she stated. It’s an amazing place, and it’s hard to find a bigger and better platform for me to work on.

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