If you have a student loan and are looking to re-finance with Earnest, or already have refinanced with them, news broke today that they have just been acquired by Navient for $155 Million.
Earnest, has been a popular financial technology startup since it’s creation in 2013. Like SoFi, CommonBond, and other such lenders, Earnest uses technology and data analysis to identify lower risk borrowers in ways that were not readily available in the past. This kind of lending model is a lucrative area that Navient has been eyeing for a while.
Navient, an offshoot of Sallie Mae, is America’s largest student loan servicer. It has a far less than sterling reputation among millions of borrowers – present and past. Not only was it sued this past January by the U.S. government Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for “failing borrowers at every stage of repayment” via outright “cheating” and “deception”, it is also, the “most complained about financial company in America”.
If you have a loan with Earnest, published reports so far claim that the former California startup will continue to operate as its own brand under its current founding leadership. Not much more information beyond that appears to be available now. However, if you have concerns about what this means for your account and personal data, you may want to do your own investigation and reach out to them for answers.
UPDATE 10/06/17: The CEO of Earnest has made public his email address and invited Earnest borrowers to contact him directly with questions and concerns about the acquisition. From the discussion in Reddit’s r/studentloans sub, Beryl is taking the time to respond personally. He is assuring everyone that their accounts won’t be affected and that Earnest’s same in-house San Francisco based employees will continue the day-to-day servicing of customer’s loans.
This is a recent quote of the CEO from the r/studentloans thread discussion tonight:
Hi everyone – this is Louis, CEO of Earnest, and I know some of you have concerns about the partnership we announced this week so I wanted to address everyone directly here. Everyone can of course email me anytime, I’m firstname.lastname@example.org and I swear it’s me. Not my assistants, bots, machine learning, or magical animals doing the responses for me.
I get it and I understand everyone’s concerns. The US credit system has been broken and student loans have become a tremendous problem for all of us. The service levels everywhere are way below expectations. We all really deserve better.
I set out to change this industry and fix the problem and I give you all my assurance that Earnest will offer all our clients the same best-in-class interface and service levels you all have come to expect. It is still our SF based team answering the phones and responding to emails and texts. And me responding to emails at 9:15PM at night from my couch at home : ) I give you my personal assurance that if there is any way I can improve things for you or others I am all ears.
If you do not believe we care more, or that you will get a better client experience with us than others, I suggest you run this test. Email the CEO of the other companies you think will be better and see who responds faster and more effectively to your concerns. If I do not succeed in earning your business, then I think you should take your business elsewhere, but if I fairly do earn it I would ask you to stay with us.
I sincerely appreciate every single Earnest client. No one is a commodity. I recognize you make the choice with whom you do business and that others did not take their clients needs and experiences seriously in the past, but we do.
I hope everyone here continues to give us the opportunity to earn their business.
Louis Beryl, Founder & CEO of Earnest
UPDATE November 2018
I’ve posted an update on the impacts of Navient’s acquisition of Earnest, one year later.