James Gutierrez On Social Justice As Motivator for Professional Trajectory | Feedster
Throughout his professional journey, James Gutierrez has remained committed to helping the community he grew up in to have access to better financial tools. He has an extensive background in creating innovative lending products to cater to the traditionally underbanked communities.
Additionally, James Gutierrez serves on multiple Boards for social justice organizations. Throughout his professional trajectory, he has been guided by unwavering principles, and a compassionate drive to help others. These innate driving forces have led James Gutierrez to professional success, all while maintaining an authenticity that’s impossible to ignore. Below, James Gutierrez offers insights on his road to success, measured by the systemic change created by his actions.
James Gutierrez On His Career Path
When asked about his humble start in business, James Gutierrez reported that he started about 15 years ago. He calls himself a social entrepreneur and he’s somewhat unique in that he started his financial career by founding his own business, Progreso Financiero (later renamed Oportun). It was a bold move for a fledgling entrepreneur, but one that has paid off, both financially and in furthering James Gutierrez’s commitment to enhancing the underbanked community’s access to top financial products.
Since inception, Oportun has given over 1.8 million individuals (primarily from traditionally underbanked communities) access to affordable credit products. Additionally, the company has helped over 870,000 individuals without an established FICO score to establish their credit history. According to James Gutierrez, this was a particularly winsome accomplishment, as it created long-term opportunities for economic mobility and upward movement through the establishment of a credit history.
James Gutierrez followed that success by founding Insikt in 2012, another lending service for traditionally underrepresented individuals. The $4 million venture capital fund focuses on seed and Series A investments, primarily in the fintech and inclusive banking space.
Currently, James Gutierrez is developing another innovative platform in the inclusive fintech space, aimed at providing insurance and banking solutions for Latin-X and underbanked consumers. By leveraging intuitive technology and streamlining application processes, Gutierrez aims to provide a one-stop-shop platform that will provide consumers with direct access to financial products, financial planning tools, and educational resources. This comprehensive approach, according to Gutierrez, will empower traditionally underserved populations to gain control of their financial future on a long-term basis via easy-to-use tech-based innovations.
Bold Moves From A Deep-Seated Passion
According to James Gutierrez, these bold career moves “came from a deep-seated passion for fighting for equality and fighting for justice, particularly economic justice for low-income communities and communities of color, which stemmed from my family and my background.”
James Gutierrez grew up in Los Angeles as the son of immigrants. His parents were hard-working, and as he puts it, “strong advocates and fighters for social justice and different movements for the Latino population.” Gutierrez says that he “wanted to carry that torch and give back to the community, specifically helping to build wealth and address problems of economic inequality that persist in our country, for Latinos, and immigrants, Mexicans, people that are brown, but also the wider communities of color in the US.”
Cognizant of economic inequality, and the long-term detriments of unequal access to financial services and education, James Gutierrez recognized the systemic issues plaguing traditional financial service organizations. The only way to end the cycle of financial stagnation, then, was to create products and services that opened the doors for upward mobility for those who have been traditionally denied these services. As a bold entrepreneur, James Gutierrez combined his passion with knowledge and determination, and set forth to carve the path for financial inclusion for generations to come.
Lending In Underbanked Communities
James Gutierrez always felt that “while his clients didn’t have a lot of financial collateral, they had lots of moral collateral”. He says that’s the belief that led him to launch Progreso Financiero. Gutierrez admits that the company’s journey has had its twists and turns, but the one thing that’s remained constant is “that principle of moral collateral. Our borrowers repaid, and they consistently repaid at higher APR rates than anyone ever thought they would, and even than the general population.”
With Insikt, he expanded the model used with Progreso Financiero and brought banking to where the people were. In a physical expansion, James Gutierrez set up kiosks in places like grocery stores and community centers. According to Gutierrez, those are places “where we could build trust, and see someone face-to-face. Then, explain to them the benefits of building credit, with the loan we’re offering. In the US, it’s a catch 22. You can’t build credit unless someone actually gives you a loan. So, you have to take out a loan, repay it in order to build credit. So, therefore, you need a company who’s willing to lend.” Gutierrez was determined to build that company that would inherently change the lives of countless individuals through access to capital.
More About James Gutierrez
James Gutierrez is an established social entrepreneur, and has founded several successful companies in the fintech sector. He is the Founder of several companies within the inclusive finance realm, and his venture capital vehicle, Insikt. Just a few of the companies that Insikt has invested in include Listol, StubHub and OKCupid. James Gutierrez also sits on the Boards of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, SEO (Seizing Every Opportunity), Talent Inc and even his daughters’ private school. He remains committed to forwarding the missions of various social justice initiatives, and cites these as being meaningful components of his professional journey.
Gutierrez earned a BA in Economics from Yale University, and a MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has served on the San Francisco Federal Reserve Board’s Centennial Advisory Committee and its Consumer Advisory Council.
Originally published at https://www.feedster.com on April 21, 2021.