EP 50: An Answer to the Country’s Student Loan Crisis

David Klein and Veena Ramaswamy | CommonBond

David Klein used his student loan struggles as a spark to provide a better option for the next generation of students.

Klein and Ramaswamy from CommonBond

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Episode Summary

After working in corporate America for 10 years, David Klein attended business school with the goal of starting a company before he graduated. Ironically, the cost of attending business school exposed the very problem his eventual company, CommonBond, would endeavor to solve.

“As I went back to school,” Klein shares, “I needed to pay my way 100 percent with student loans, and I discovered a few things as I looked into my options. One: the interest rates were unnecessarily high. Two: the process was overly complex. And three: the customer service was poor.”

Klein used this experience as the impetus to launch CommonBond—a company that initially helped Wharton Business School grads refinance their student loans. Now, a few years later, the company offers refinance solutions to graduates throughout the country, new student loans for students still in school, and an employer platform to help with student loan repayment.

Veena Ramaswamy joined CommonBond when the company still focused exclusively on refinancing. She now develops consumer-facing partnerships—such as the recent acquisition of NextGenVest—and capital partnerships with institutions like Fifth Third Bank.

Together, Klein and Ramaswamy guest on this episode of Founders & Funders to elaborate more on how the business came to be, lessons learned along the way, and how CommonBond is helping businesses retain Gen Z employees by offering perks that speak to their needs.

About David Klein, CEO and Co-founder of CommonBond

David Klein is CEO and co-founder of CommonBond, a fintech company that gives students and graduates more affordable, simple, and transparent ways to pay for higher education. Named one of Fast Company‘s 50 Most Innovative Companies and TIME‘s Genius Companies in 2018, CommonBond has funded more than $2.5B of student loans to date and helped more than 250 companies offer CommonBond for Business™ student loan benefits to their employees. It is also the first finance company with a “1-for-1” social mission: for every loan CommonBond funds, it funds the education of a child in need.

Prior to CommonBond, David worked in consumer finance at American Express and in financial consulting at McKinsey & Company. David graduated from Brandeis University and attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a 2017 Ernst & Young New York Entrepreneur of the Year.

About Veena Ramaswamy, VP of Strategy at CommonBond

Veena serves as VP of Strategy at CommonBond, where she oversees the company’s strategic partnerships—with institutions like Fifth Third Bank—as well as its corporate development. She recently led the company’s acquisition of NextGenVest, an AI-based financial advisory platform for Gen Z. Prior to this, she was a GM at CommonBond and launched the company’s in-school lending program.

Veena joined CommonBond from Morgan Stanley’s corporate strategy and M&A group. Prior to that, Veena was in the investment banking group at Morgan Stanley, where she worked with universities and municipalities on debt financings for infrastructure projects. She graduated with a B.S. in Economics from MIT, where she was captain of the varsity lightweight women’s crew team. She also has an MBA from Harvard Business School.

About CommonBond

CommonBond offers refinance loans to college graduates, new loans to current students, and a suite of student loan repayment benefits to employees through its CommonBond for Business™ program. By designing a better student loan experience that combines advanced technology with competitive rates and award-winning customer service, CommonBond has funded more than $2.5 billion in loans, partnered with over 300 corporate clients, and currently serves more than 100,000 members. CommonBond is also the first and only finance company with a “one-for-one” social mission: for every loan it funds, CommonBond also funds the education of a child in need, through its partnership with Pencils of Promise. For more information, visit commonbond.co.

CommonBond is a portfolio company of Chestnut Street Ventures, Castor Ventures, Green D Ventures, and The Yard Ventures.

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