Online lender expanding into Utah, plans to hire 500 in 5 years

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SALT LAKE CITY — In a move announced Thursday, San Francisco-based financial-tech company Earnest will expand into Utah, with plans to spend $5.6 million on a new office and hire 500 employees over the next five years.

The company, founded in 2013, specializes in online student loan refinancing and personal loans and offers other financial services.

“We’re excited to announce that our second location will be in Utah,” said Earnest CEO and co-founder Louis Beryl. “Utah has become a thriving hub for both technology and financial services companies, with a deep talent pool across multiple areas that is complementary to what we see in San Francisco.

"Expanding to Utah is an important next step as we continue working to build the modern bank for the next generation.”

The Governor's Office of Economic Development has extended Earnest a postperformance tax credit package worth $2.8 million over five years. The credit value is based on the company's plans to hire 500 employees in Utah, pay out $63.6 million in wages and $14 million in taxes for the same five-year span. To earn the credit, the company must pay, in total aggregate wages, 110 percent of the county average wage.

“We welcome Earnest to Utah, where they will join the ranks of many cutting-edge companies disrupting the financial services industry and defining the banking of tomorrow,” said Vale Hale, the economic development office's executive director. “The company will benefit from Utah’s innovative business environment, which has produced a thriving financial technology sector. We are excited by what the future holds for this partnership.”

According to company promotional materials, Earnest digs deeper than a loan applicants FICO score to assess their creditworthiness, looking at additional data like the applicant's education, employment history and other factors, combined with data science, to "make credit more accessible by reducing the costs and barriers faced by millions of financially responsible people."

A recent Bloomberg article noted Earnest was looking for a buyer in the price range of $200 million, significantly lower than the roughly $300 million the company has built in equity and debt financing.

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