Suma Wealth Is Helping to Close the Racial Wealth Gap by Focusing on Youth

Victoria E. Gillison

By Marisa Franco and Victoria Gillison

This article is one in a series about business leaders in the Level program, now in its third year. Through the Level program, B Lab U.S. & Canada aims to support and partner with business leaders who identify as women of color to amplify their economic reach and community impact.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone, but its impacts were not felt equally. Studies indicate that communities of color experienced greater economic loss due to the pandemic. This inequality drove CEO Beatriz Acevedo and Co-Founders Mary Hernandez and Xavier Gutierrez to start Suma Wealth, a financial technology company that fosters financial literacy in the Latinx community.

Suma among the first fintech companies, out of the more than 10,000 in the U.S., with a C-Suite composed of all Latinas. As Acevedo says, they are not a product-first company but a community-first one. Since Suma’s founding in 2020, Acevedo wanted the company to “be very intentional in first building the community, building the trust, and then listening for what [the community’s] needs were.” Only then would she “build the product based on exactly what our community was telling us.” The result has been an app and certification program that focuses on financial literacy among U.S. Latinx youth.

They chose that focus because of the Latinx youth multiplying effect: Data shows that one user of Suma typically manages finances for up to three family members. “Our communities are so underserved in so many ways. … Gen Zers have a lot of influence. They have had to be those navigators in their families and communities; they’ve had to translate literally and figuratively the American ethos to their older family members. So when you target them to super-serve them, you’re really supporting the entire community,” Acevedo says.

A Digital Platform to Help Build and Sustain Wealth

Suma is more than just an app. Its digital platform is designed to teach the Latinx community to build and sustain wealth in a culturally relevant way. The Dinero Bootcamp program addresses saving, investing, and wealth building, and grants graduates a personal finance certification backed by Arizona State University. Participant Jennifer Nazarios said the boot camp gave her the confidence to spend money on herself and achieve financial independence. Her newfound confidence replaced the guilt and shame she previously felt toward conversations about money. Using lessons from the boot camp, Jennifer and her sister navigated challenges and three years later were able to purchase a home that allowed her family to move out of the studio they had shared for 25 years.

Suma is more than just an app. Its digital platform is designed to teach the Latinx community to build and sustain wealth in a culturally relevant way.

Suma is on its way to gain B Corp Certification, an important step that Acevedo says will hold her accountable. B Corps are companies that demonstrate high social and environmental performance and make a commitment to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. As part of the B Corp community, Suma can help reshape the traditional economy to be more just, equitable, and regenerative for future generations. But in Acevedo’s mind, this isn’t the only part of capitalism that needs to be reimagined.

“When it comes to money, to capital, it’s very clear which communities have not had access to it. And access starts with education for me,” she said. “The first thing to reimagine is education. That’s why we have such a big focus on that at Suma. It all starts with education and education that is fun, easy to understand, and leans hard into pop culture.”

The result has been extremely positive: Suma has over 800,000 users in the community, 80% of whom are aged between 18–42 (the millennial and Gen Z generations), and 74% have or want to start their own businesses.

While B Corp Certification is a “badge of honor,” according to Acevedo, she wasn’t sure she could attain it. “I hadn’t done it because I’d heard that the process is lengthy and it’s costly. As a small startup, you only have so much time in the day.” However, the Level program helped make it possible. Acevedo heard about the Level program when speaking at a Beneficial State Bank event in Philadelphia last year and knew she wanted to apply. “When I learned about the program, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to fill in the application and see if they take me.’ So I was super-excited when I made the cut.”

Level provides businesses that are led by Black, Indigenous, or People of Color who also identify as women to work alongside B Corp Certification consulting firms as they undergo the certification process. The program gives them the needed resources to measure and improve their impact, tell their stories, and adopt a stakeholder governance structure.

After being a part of the process, Acevedo says she looks at other B Corps differently. “I see that they’re B Corps, and it makes me want to support them more. Because I know it’s not just saying that you do good in the world. And it’s not just saying that you are a double- or triple-bottom-line company, but there’s real measurement behind there. There’s real accountability behind that, having that certification, that stamp of approval that you are doing the hard work.”

Looking ahead to Suma’s future, Acevedo hopes to help more Latinx youths, and youths in general, get the financial education they need to feel empowered. “I would love to see that every kid in our community at a high school level knows the importance of [financial education]. Let’s get every kid in high school in California, and then other states in the U.S., to be able to complete our money boot camps that we have, because they’re free and understand that the curriculum is useful.”

Acevedo hopes this helps create more stories like Jennifer’s. “It doesn’t take much. [Jennifer] saw a video on Instagram that prompted her to take the next step, and the next step, and two years later, she’s a homeowner. That’s unbelievable.”

B The Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

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