JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s acquisition of Frosch is a feather in the cap for the entire travel industry, Frosch executives say, as well as an indicator of the strength of the travel agency community specifically.
"I think this is incredibly exciting for our industry. Every travel advisor should be proud and excited that one of the very best and most respected companies in the world is coming into the travel space," said Bryan Leibman, CEO of Frosch, a travel agency with headquarters in New York and Houston.
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Marc Kazlauskas, president of Frosch's leisure division and U.S. branch operations, added, "What an incredible statement to the viability of a travel advisor career. One of the largest, most impressive and important banks in the world getting into travel. It really makes an incredible statement -- what a great career to be in right now, [that of] the travel advisor."
News broke earlier this year that JPMorgan planned to acquire the mega-agency, No. 13 on Travel Weekly's 2022 Power List. JPMorgan offered some more insight into its plans in the travel space during its investor day in May.
Marianne Lake, JPMorgan's co-CEO of consumer and community banking, said travel is at the core of the company's card business. As such, JPMorgan partners with "some of the most admired brands in the travel industry," Lake said.
According to Lake, in the U.S. market, $1 in every $4 put on a Chase card is for leisure travel, while $1 in every $3 spent on leisure travel comes from a Chase customer.
But a lot of that spend was not made through a Chase booking platform.
"We saw an opportunity during the pandemic to own our own destiny in travel," she said, leading to the acquisition of both loyalty technology solutions provider cxLoyalty, announced in late 2020, and Frosch.
Together, those companies provide JPMorgan with a booking engine, content, service and concierge capabilities, "and today, we estimate we are a top-five U.S. consumer travel provider," Lake said.
"Along with controlling the customer experience, which is everything, we now have full ownership economics," she said. "We have all of the travel commissions. We will be at scale and cross $10 billion of travel volume on the platform next year, with strong underlying growth."
JPMorgan isn't the only financial institution to get into the travel space recently. Leibman pointed to Capital One's launch of Capital One Travel, a booking experience powered by Hopper (No. 10 on Travel Weekly's 2022 Power List).
We have a great opportunity. We have so many potential clients, and we will support those clients as we grow with them."
Talks with Frosch began late last summer, Leibman said. JPMorgan was particularly interested in the high-end service Frosch provides clients.
For Frosch employees, it's "business as usual," Leibman said. JPMorgan is committed to all of Frosch's divisions and brands, including former Power List agencies Valerie Wilson Travel, which it acquired in May 2021, and Conlin Travel, an October 2021 acquisition.
The JPMorgan acquisition gives Frosch access to new resources, including enhanced cybersecurity, a critical component especially for corporate and entertainment clients.
"They want us to continue to do what we do best, to service and support, but they're providing us tremendous resources to uplift us to be able to have scale and provide stability and security," Leibman said.
Judith Allen, Frosch's president of global corporate and energy travel management, is particularly excited as she begins to explore alternative payment solutions with JPMorgan.
On the leisure front, the bank is providing greater resources to support frontline agents and independent contractors (ICs), Kazlauskas said. He emphasized the company's commitment to the IC channel.
The acquisition also opens up a new world of clients to service, especially in the high- and ultrahigh-net-worth categories.
"We have a great opportunity," Leibman said. "That's the unique thing about being a [JPMorgan] business now -- we have so many potential clients, and we will support those clients as we grow with them. We'll make sure that we do it right. We always pay attention to our reputation and our service excellence, and we'll scale up to support them."
Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-president of Valerie Wilson Travel, emphasized the "business as usual" approach for the Frosch family of brands.
"They are trusted brands locally, regionally, nationally, globally," she said. "And they're trusted as a host for the ICs. They're trusted as an employer, as an advisor, and they're trusted as a TMC from the client."