After raking in $36 million by joining the New York Stock Exchange, New Haven’s fast-rising financial services company plans to expand its workforce, move out of its Science Park office—and do its best to keep 180 jobs in the city.
Founded in 2000 by three Yale undergraduates, Higher One hit a milestone last week when it issued an initial public offering of stock. Higher One Holdings started trading a week ago Thursday under the symbol ONE. The company sold three million shares at its initial offering, reaping in $36 million, according to co-founder and Chief Operations Officer Miles Lasater.
Higher One contracts with 650 colleges and universities to help them handle payments to students of any money left over from financial aid grants, loans, or if the student drops a class. Instead of waiting on line at the bursar’s office or waiting for a check that may get lost, students click onto Higher One’s site and get their money directly. The students can also sign up for a checking account that lets them do all their banking online, at no cost, at any time of day or night; and lets their parents easily deposit money. The company is seen as representative of the kind of tech-oriented homegrown businesses that can create New Haven’s jobs to replace its eviscerated manufacturing base.
Lasater (pictured) said the new money will help Higher One pay down debt and fill 30 new positions in New Haven, ranging from entry-level to senior staff. The company offers colleges and universities across the country an online disbursement and banking service, and online banking for students.
Lasater traveled with top Higher One staff to the New York Stock Exchange last week for the first day of trading. The stock exchange let Higher One hang a banner (pictured above) on its hallowed walls. Casey McGuane, the company’s chief service officer, performed the honor of ringing the ceremonial bell to mark the open of trading for the day. And the crew got to stand in a crowd on the trading floor as the buying and selling began.
“It was really a thrilling moment,” Lasater said. “It’s a big step.”
He outlined the next steps to come.
The company employs over 400 people—170 work here in New Haven, at 25 Science Park, 45 in a San Francisco Bay Area office, and the rest work from home.
Higher One was one of the first tenants to move into the building. It helped usher in a wave of other tenants, and redefine the Winchester Avenue area as a bustling spot to grow a small business. Now, with Yale and other tenants soon to fill the building, Lasater said the company is outgrowing the space.
“There’s less room to grow here,” Lasater said. He said his company is planning to move in the next 18 months. Higher One would move all 170-plus local positions expected there by then to a new office space, where it aims to expand even further, he said.
Lasater said Higher One has visited several locations, in and outside New Haven. The company is currently negotiating in discussions with developer Carter Winstanley about moving into a new office space planned right across the street, at 275 Winchester Ave.
“We’re very interested in that property,” Lasater said.
Higher One is spending the most time discussing that site compared to other sites, he said, but “it’s not a done deal.”
“We’re still looking at other options,” Lasater said. While the company has been devoted to New Haven throughout its 10-year legacy, cheap office space with ample parking can be hard to come by. Lasater said he is “certainly” looking at places outside New Haven.
“Everything is on the table at this point.”