Carla Molina’s Goal: Helping People Achieve Financial Freedom

This Bank of America SVP believes financial education is key to helping the Latino community leave a lasting legacy

Carla Molina boils her job down to one noble goal: helping people achieve financial freedom. As senior vice president and communications executive at Bank of America, she specifically aims to help the Latino community through initiatives such as BetterMoneyHabits.com, a free online education tool that debuted a Spanish-language version in late 2018. “It’s a resource for anyone interested in learning more about strong financial habits, and not just Bank of America customers,” Molina says.

Carla Molina, SVP, Communications, Bank of AmericaPhoto: Prana by Jonesie

Better Money Habits was developed in 2013 with the help of Khan Academy, a leading online educator. The move to launch a Spanish version was informed by research. “We wanted to understand the unique needs of Hispanic consumers, households, small businesses, and others, and their frame of mind when it comes to finances and financial information,” Molina says.

In recent research from the bank, Hispanics reported more stress about finances than other groups. They also prioritize smart financial habits, with 53 percent always tracking their monthly expenses, 31 percent always planning and sticking to a monthly budget, and 84 percent expressing a desire to learn more about financial topics like homeownership, investing, and retirement. “The appetite for the information is there, and I’m so happy and proud we’re able to fill this need,” Molina says.

The Spanish-language site is already showing success, outperforming much of its English content on key engagement metrics, including average session duration, the number of returning visitors, and content completion rates.

Molina’s support for the Latino community doesn’t end there. She serves as executive sponsor of the Austin chapter of the Hispanic-Latino Organization for Leadership & Advancement (HOLA), Bank of America’s program to foster Hispanic-Latino employee growth. Through her role as sponsor, she mentors the chapter’s two heads, who are both Latinas. “We want to be constantly building that pipeline of talent,” Molina says. “My goal is to set my cochairs up for success, whether that means they are promoted within their current roles or through horizontal opportunities in the company. They’re now part of other leadership programs within Austin so they’re being exposed both within and outside the company to opportunities.”

She makes time for involvement in local organizations as well, including the Austin Community Foundation’s Hispanic Impact Fund, a fundraising network supporting the advancement of Hispanic Central Texans. “We believe that when we support Latinos, the whole community benefits,” Molina notes.

Molina’s efforts to lift up the Latino community stem from her own personal experiences. A first-generation American, Molina was born in Houston after her parents left Nicaragua before the 1979 revolution. Her grandparents soon followed, fleeing in the middle of the night and leaving behind everything they had worked so hard to achieve.

“They were in their sixties and didn’t speak English,” she says. “My grandfather retired from the military in Nicaragua and had to work as a janitor in America to make ends meet.”

“So many people who come [to the United States] have to start over, and even though they may have been financially savvy back home, they still need financial education because the system is different.”

Financial education—like that which Molina is helping provide—is key to helping people like Molina’s grandparents achieve success. “So many people who come here have to start over, and even though they may have been financially savvy back home, they still need financial education because the system is different,” Molina says. “Here, it’s OK to put your money in the bank—whereas it might not have been at home—because we have a sound financial system with protections for customers. If you just give them the information they need, they’re going to be able to succeed and contribute to our economy.”

Whether through Better Money Habits or her mentorship work, Molina says it’s all about legacy. “Many of our families came here to create a better life for the generation ahead of them. Legacy is such an important thing in our community for that reason, whether it’s in the form of your career accomplishments or your family’s trajectory.”

Molina, who has more than fifteen years of experience to her name, says being a Latina in the banking and communications field has been exciting but, at times, frustrating.

“We’re seeing so much opportunity,” she explains. “In the political landscape, for example, so many Latinas won positions in the last election. Being multicultural, we bring a different lens to the table. Thankfully, there’s increasingly more acknowledgment that diversity of thought is valuable. Our company is committed to that idea.”

Molina credits her success in part to an early mentor at Bank of America, Tony Allen (who currently serves as the provost of Delaware State University). Allen provided a strong example of an effective, caring leader—an example she still draws on today.

“As I’m leading my own teams now, I remember how he always had my back,” she says. “You learn so much from mistakes, and having that support is invaluable to growth.”

The 2008 financial crisis, which occurred shortly after Molina started at Bank of America, also proved fertile training ground, helping her learn the ropes of navigating crises, understand the value of remaining calm during turbulent times, and see the big picture, including potential risks. Those experiences also helped Molina become more aware of her personal strengths, including her collaborative spirit.

“At Bank of America we talk a lot about our core values, and the two that have always rung truest to me are ‘trust the team’ and ‘deliver together,’” she says. “I feel so fortunate to work at a company that has everyone from the CEO down focused on our purpose of improving financial lives. Finances are a massive thing that impacts so much of how you live your life and I know we are making a difference because we’re constantly asking ourselves, ‘How do we come together and positively impact the communities where we work and live?’ My job gives me the ability to deliver on programs that are moving the needle for people in a very real way and helping them feel empowered in their daily lives.”

Lopez Negrete congratulates Carla Molina on blazing trails!

Carla has always set a sterling example of how to ignite the Hispanic market. As Bank of America’s Hispanic partner, we at Lopez Negrete know the courage it takes to blaze trails and why, together, we’ve led the charge when it comes to Hispanic marketing for nearly three decades. Today, Latinos are at the forefront of growth, so together with Carla, we work tirelessly to bring our Hispanic consumers the best tools and resources to better their financial lives. See the impact leaders like Carla have made with our clients at lopeznegrete.com.