Charlie Javice, founder / CEO of Frank, a college grant start-up.

Source: JP Morgan

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

Frank is an online portal with tools to help students apply for and negotiate financial assistance, register for online courses, and find scholarships. It has served more than five million students at 6,000 institutions since its inception by Charlie Javice in 2017.

JPMorgan, the largest US bank by assets, has announced since CEO Jamie Dimon last year that it would be “much more aggressive” about buying startups at a steady pace in its search for acquisitions. The company has attracted a number of fintech firms to expand their skills in sustainable investing, robo-advice and building tax efficient portfolios.

But in some ways, this deal is most similar to another recent acquisition of JPMorgan, restaurant rating service The Infatuation. With both transactions, the company is diving deeper into a vertical, hoping to generate loyalty with a particular cohort.

“We really have a desire to have lifelong, dedicated relationships with all of our customers, and Charlie and her team have built an amazing bond with the student body,” said Jennifer Roberts, director of Chase Consumer Banking, in an interview. “Today we work with students and of course we have offices near over 300 universities, but this really gives us access to a much larger pool of students.”

Jen Roberts, CEO of Consumer Banking at JPMorgan Chase

Source: JPMorgan Chase

A quarter of Chase customers have children ages 6-17 who could at some point benefit from using Frank, and the bank is hoping users will sign up for their first checking account with Chase, Roberts said.

Frank will keep his branding and will continue to be led by Javice, who joined JPMorgan as Head of Student Solutions in the bank’s Digital Products team. The companies didn’t want to say how much JPMorgan is paying for Frank, who has raised more than $ 20 million from investors since 2017.

Frank users are typically from low- to middle-income families, and many are women and first-time college graduates, according to a JPMorgan spokeswoman. The tools and content are free; Frank demands an annual fee from the schools, Javice said.

While many financial aid companies are focused on providing student loan provision and refinancing – and potentially shackling users with enormous debts – Javice wanted Frank to help Americans apply for federal aid.

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“The goal was to think the complete opposite of what all student lenders and refinancers and lead generators in this market are,” said Javice. “It was about financial wellbeing, similar to health care, from a preventive perspective.

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

Despite weeks of negotiating the deal, Javice said she didn’t meet her new colleagues in person until Monday, she said.

“Today is my first day at work with someone else,” she said. “It’s a fantastic place and I couldn’t find a better, bigger platform to keep working.”

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