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JPMorgan to Mentor Veteran-Focused Academy Securities

LOS ANGELES — A fledgling broker-dealer firm with a mission to employ veterans and an eye on the municipal bond market is working on growth plans with assistance from a major player.

In September, JPMorgan Chase entered into a four-year agreement to mentor San Diego-based broker-dealer Academy Securities.

The financial services giant also loaned $4 million to Academy, a certified disabled veteran business enterprise, to help the company achieve its goal of increasing the percentage of its workforce that is ex-military from 38% to 50% by year-end.

Terms of the loan were not disclosed.

Academy currently employes 24 people in San Diego, New York and Chicago.

“There is an enormous pool of veterans interested in financial services,” said former Naval officer Chance Mims, Academy’s chief executive officer.

“There is an even bigger pool of vets seeking jobs that are not sure what they want to do or can do,” he added. “That is why we want to be around to help them translate the skills they learned in the military into working a financial services job.”

The mentor protégé agreement between JPMorgan Chase and Academy is the second to be approved under the U.S. Treasury Department’s  mentor-protégé program. Drexel Hamilton LLC partnership with Goldman, Sachs & Co. in January was the first one.

The program was created to encourage more-established firms to assist small businesses, particularly minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran or service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, according to the Treasury Department’s website.

It was also created to foster long-term business relationships between these entities and Treasury prime contractors to increase the number of small businesses in those categories that receive contracts and subcontracts.

Mentorship can range from employee training to consultation on the firm’s business plans, said Paul Palmeri, JPMorgan head of public finance.

“Academy Securities approached the firm earlier this year and asked that we become their mentor under the U.S. Treasury’s mentor protégé program,” Palmeri said. “It didn’t take long for us to agree to work with Academy given their unique background and all the work they’ve done to hire veterans.” Chase itself has made a commitment to employ a significant number of the one million military veterans expected to re-enter the civilian workforce over the next five years.

Academy handled its first municipal bond deal this year when it co-managed a $220 million California State Department of Veterans Affairs bond issue with JPMorgan in February.

Since then, Academy has been involved in more than 30 bond deals of various sizes in California, New York and Illinois. In addition to the company’s financial expertise, Mims said he liked that JPMorgan Chase had created an office of military and veterans affairs in 2011 to train veterans.

“Our firm wants to do all we can to ensure that those being discharged from the military are not only being hired, but are also receiving the proper training to transition these skills to jobs in the corporate world,” Palmeri said.

Shane Osborn, an Academy partner, said while the firm wants to train vets, it’s also focused on hiring senior industry experts. Osborn, who was hailed as a hero after his spy plane was shot down on Chinese soil in 2001, served as Nebraska’s state treasurer from 2005 to 2011.

“When I speak to state treasurers, they are excited about what we are trying to accomplish, but they also have a fiduciary duty,” he said. “That is why it is important to have JPMorgan as a mentor. It’s invaluable for us to complete our business and social mission.”

The executive team is comprised of many post-9/11 vets, who were going through the same thing not long ago, Mims said. The firm’s president is Phil McConkey, a Naval Academy graduate who played in the National Football League after four years of active duty service, and was a member of the New York Giants team that won the Super Bowl in 1987.

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