Wole Coaxum: Paying it Forward for Communities of Color
By Andre LaFontant
Mobility Capital Finance, Inc. (“MoCaFi”) is a financial technology company helmed by CEO Wole Coaxum. After eight years with JP Morgan Chase, Wole sought out on his own in 2015 to serve small businesses and the roughly 1 million people underbanked in the United States. “We as a society have relegated communities of color to exploitative, non-credit building products that do not help build our communities forward,” explains Coaxum.
“55 percent of black people are unbanked or underbanked,” he further explains. “By underbanked, I mean that you use an alternative financial service company, like check cask, pawnshops, or payday lenders as your primary form of banking, even though you have a traditional bank account. That number is roughly 50 percent for Hispanics. So we, as communities of color, find ourselves outside of the financial mainstream and we’re seeing the impact of that magnified by Covid-19. We see a lack of an ability to collect a check from the federal government efficiently. We’re finding that small businesses, black and brown-owned, are not getting access to the paycheck protection program.”
During this crucial moment in history, Coaxum leads his team at MoCaFi with the fortuitous blend of world-class experience and a work ethic steeped in legacy. “The first half of my career gave me the necessary training to where I can credibly go out and create a financial institution focused on communities of color. At the end of my career, I would much rather have tried to use that experience to solve problems in my community than not be a part of the fight at all.” The fight that Wole speaks of is one that his great grandfather first set in motion.
“He was a businessman in Charleston, West Virginia that had a passion for real estate. Not different from other segregated cities in the South, he bought a building that solely housed black businesses,” begins Wole. “He would invest in the equipment used in those businesses that would, in turn, serve the community in different ways. One of the things he wanted to do was start a bank and I have all the documentation of that work he was trying to establish. Unfortunately, he wasn’t successful. But now, in 2020, I can actualize that dream. I think about how he would solve things and use his position to move the community forward if given the tools I have now.”
Wole Coaxum allows history to empower him to have the strength to take risks. “Doing a startup, I don’t care what your age is, is like walking a tightrope 40,000 feet in the air with no net underneath you,” he states. “And you just have to be ready to take that risk. Understand it’s there and embrace it.” Taking a cue from Adam Clayton Powell’s speech “What’s In Your Hand,” Wole grabs hold of a vision of prosperity ripe for this moment in history. “I think that 2020 is an opportunity to build upon the legacy that we are beneficiaries of, using technology and unprecedented capital within our community, to allow us to do things that were not possible before.”