Founder and CEO, Stackwell Capital, Inc.
They are determined to use their experience, influence, and positions to help make their business, organization, and world more inclusive. They are breaking barriers—and then reaching back to help those behind them overcome the same hurdles. They are BU alumni, faculty, and staff—of every race, ethnicity, age, and gender—and they are “Opening Doors” for the next generation.
To address the age-old problem of racial inequality, Trevor Rozier-Byrd turned to the modern business of fintech, as founder and CEO of Stackwell Capital. Its mission: tap the power of financial markets to close the wealth gap between Black and white Americans.
Stackwell launched in August 2022 after raising $3.5 million in seed funding. Rozier-Byrd (LAW’10) had worked at State Street for six years before leaving to start Stackwell. The company, recently profiled by CBS News, says it will provide clients with an app with “automated investment portfolios, recommended based on user-specific goals, to help users invest with confidence; in-app educational content that demystifies investing so users can grow their knowledge and their wealth; [and] science-based nudges to help users stay committed, stay consistent, and achieve their long-term wealth building goals and objectives.”
While anyone can sign up for the app, Stackwell’s primary mission is to eliminate the wealth gap by helping Black clients increase their ownership of financial assets. The median white household’s net worth exceeds the median Black household’s tenfold.
“We fundamentally believe, as an organization and as individuals, that the racial wealth gap is the social justice issue of our time,” says Rozier-Byrd. “It directly impacts the numerous other gaps we face—legal rights, quality education, affordable housing and healthcare, social mobility, job opportunities, and so many more—that have left too many Black Americans feeling like they aren’t set up for success in this country. All of those things are directly impacted by a person’s access to capital, or lack thereof.”
The stock market can be volatile, but Rozier-Byrd says that Stackwell’s diversified strategy—the brokerage accounts for investing that clients open will mix low-cost stock funds and fixed-income, exchange-traded funds (bond funds traded on a stock exchange)—minimizes that risk. The market has averaged an annual return of 8.5 percent in the last 30 years, he told CBS.
with Trevor Rozier-Byrd
Bostonia: How did you get interested in fintech originally, and what made you think a fintech company in particular could help address the racial wealth gap?
Rozier-Byrd: I have spent the entirety of my professional career as a lawyer and business executive in the asset management space, building wealth for many people who, frankly, don’t look like me. Those experiences helped me realize how powerful a tool investing can be for helping people grow long-term sustainable wealth.
As my career transitioned from legal to business, I entered the fintech space, which was a very natural progress for me, given the types of clients I represented and the deal work I was doing as a lawyer. While at State Street, I helped build the fintech business at the bank and was the head of strategy and business development before leaving to found Stackwell.
Through my own personal research and analysis of the emerging business models in the fintech space, I was able to identify a unique opportunity to leverage the best of what I saw to solve many of the financial access and inclusion challenges faced by the Black community, which have directly contributed to the continued growth of the racial wealth gap.
Bostonia: Did your personal experience inform your decision to start the company? Would Stackwell have been useful to your family when you were growing up?
Rozier-Byrd: Growing up, money and investing wasn’t something we talked about in my family. I never had any formal financial education, either. Shortly after I graduated college, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with the father of one of my best friends, a financial advisor, who sat me down and explained to me the power of long-term passive investing. Two lessons he gave me in that conversation were: “It’s not how much money you make, it’s how much money you save and invest” and “it’s not about timing the market, it’s about time in the market.”
As a result of that conversation, I started to believe that I too could invest and participate in the financial markets. I found that there were safe and sustainable ways for me to do so. And most important, I found that there were ways that I could make my wealth grow that weren’t reliant on my own personal labor.
A single hour-long conversation changed the course of my life. It is my hope that Stackwell will do the same for so many other individuals in the Black community.
For me, having access to a tool like Stackwell growing up would have created a pathway to normalized conversations among family and friends about the importance of investing and would have given me and my siblings a tool to create a pathway for building wealth.
This would have been especially important because of the significance of time when it comes to investing. Stackwell is something that my peers and I wish we had earlier on in life, and I am proud that we have created a tool that will benefit so many other people in the Black community. Stackwell will be useful for all families, regardless of where your family comes from, as it will be a tool that will serve as an important conversation starter about how to build wealth through investing.
Bostonia: You just launched. What’s the early interest?
When we were building the platform, we sought to address the barriers that were pervasive across the Black community head-on. At its core, Stackwell’s platform is designed specifically to overcome the fear and mistrust of the financial system and institutions in this country, and empower individuals to see a space for themselves in investing.
Our model portfolios facilitate the process of getting started and address lack of guidance and proximity to the markets. Our financial wellness and education content answer for the lack of information that is culturally congruent and give people confidence to opt in. And the low-cost entry and subscription fees help assuage heightened risk aversion and concerns people have about investing without a safety net.
We feel confident and excited about how people are responding to the product. And the strength of our strategic partnerships will allow us to introduce ourselves to the community in authentic ways and develop a strong user base. This will, in turn, help us drive the impact we’re trying to see. We look forward to expanding and diversifying our partnerships across other sectors over time.
Additionally, Stackwell has an influential student ambassador program that launched earlier this year that works with student-athletes to raise awareness about building wealth in the Black community. We have 30-plus ambassadors at 15 schools, including several ambassadors from Boston University. One of the best examples I can think of: one of our ambassadors has helped several of her family members to open a Stackwell account, including her grandmother! We are seeing the platform fostering discussions across generations in her family about money, investing, and wealth—all in real time.
Bostonia: Who opened doors for you in your life and business career?
My parents created tremendous opportunities for our family, which afforded me the opportunity to go to schools like Boston College and later, BU LAW. I’ve been fortunate to have a number of mentors, advisors, and friends who have invested in me personally and professionally and who have had a significant impact on my ability to achieve success in my business career. I’m proud to say many of these individuals were classmates at BU LAW or alums of the school, and remain friends today. Specifically, within BU LAW, these people were particularly impactful: Professor Tamar Frankel, Tom Farrell (LAW’91), Mike Fricklas (LAW‘84), Wendell Taylor (LAW’95), Eugene Holmes (LAW’95), Jamie Whitney (LAW‘94), Sharee Eriks (LAW’10), Gursimarjit Singh (LAW’10), Ross Epstein (LAW’10), and Daniel Broderick (LAW’10).
Bostonia: Was LAW opening and welcoming toward you?
Yes, very much so. I attended law school at the height of the financial crisis, which was a tough time to be in graduate school. Because of that, networking became more important in law school than it had been previously. There were a number of BU LAW alums who were very giving of their time, willing to mentor and help me build a network to gain access to potential opportunities. Almost all jobs that I’ve had in my post–law school career came through a BU alum connection. And beyond the jobs themselves, there are many other opportunities that have come as a result of being a part of the BU LAW community. As I left my job to found Stackwell, my first outside investor was a BU LAW alum, and many of my classmates have been early investors.
Bostonia: What can people do in their workplaces to make them more diverse and welcoming? And what can financial services firms, including established ones, do to help address the wealth gap?
There is a need for financial services firms to focus on intentionally serving the needs of a broader, more diverse set of consumers. It’s similar to the diversity conversation in the workplace: many firms acknowledge the importance of diversity, but their actions are not sustained over time. If financial services firms are actually focused on solving this problem, they need to be intentionally invested in actions that match their words. This includes being more sensitive and aware to the problems that the Black community faces, and committed to investing in these communities to better serve their needs.
At the core of solving the racial wealth gap is the need to address, and correct, long-term societal challenges, such as the long-held misperception about needing wealth to be able to start investing, and being thoughtful and inclusive with educational materials and resources. If we can get to the root issues and offer solutions, we can effect monumental change.
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