With the closing of its purchase of financial wellness provider Gradifi on Dec. 9 for $30 million in cash, E-Trade Financial is poised to offer student loan benefits through employer benefits programs.
Gradifi, founded in January 2014, offers a suite of solutions for reducing student loan debt including employer-sponsored student loan paydown, employee contributions to 529 college savings plans to help finance their children’s college education and and employee access to student loan refinance options, loan counseling, educational resources and digital financial planning tools.
First Republic Bank, Gradifi’s previous parent company, will continue to be a lender in Gradifi’s student loan refinance marketplace and offer Gradifi’s student loan repayment and college savings benefits to its employees.
“Tackling student debt is vital today if we hope to set employees up for long-term financial success,” said Scott Whatley, president of E-Trade Corporate Services, in a statement. “As an industry leader in stock plan administration we play a significant role in helping employers meet the financial needs of their participants, and innovative offerings like Gradifi help us deliver even more firepower to plan sponsors.”
“The prospect of leveraging the diverse resources of E-Trade to more completely meet the needs of our clients and their employee base is thrilling to say the least, and we look forward to working hand in hand as one team to raise the bar even further for the benefits industry,” said Kate Winget, chief revenue officer of Gradifi, in a statement.
Currently, roughly 44 million borrowers in the U.S. owe more than $1.5 trillion in student debt, averaging about $30,000 per student.
The burden has led several financial firms and employee benefits providers, including Fidelity and Empower, to offer programs to employers that can help their employees pay down student debt. Such programs can help attract new employees and retain current ones.
E-Trade serves 2 million plan participants at more than 800 publicly traded companies, including more than 20% of companies in the S&P 500 index.
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