Losing a job you love can be a spirit-breaking experience—but not for Compass Working Capital General Counsel Betty Francisco. Yes, she was sad when her past employer, Millennium Partners Sports Club Management, sold its health clubs to Equinox in 2015, but she saw that moment as a valuable opportunity to put her MBA to use. First, she launched Reimagine Play, an obstacle-based fitness program for children.
“It was a passion of mine at the time because I had young children, two girls, who could barely jump rope because they weren’t being taught good physical education in school,” Francisco says. “There’s such a need for more wellness activities for kids that ingrain the sense of healthy living from an early age.”
Francisco also took advantage of her free time to learn the ins and outs of angel investing. As a corporate lawyer at the Boston firm now known as Locke Lord, she had completed many deals related to angel and venture capital investments, as well as mergers and acquisitions. But she wanted to learn more about how venture capitalists and angel investors make the decision to invest. She joined Pipeline Angels, which she describes as a boot camp that teaches women how to become angel investors with the goal of creating “smart” capital for women and nonbinary femme social entrepreneurs.
“That was career-changing because it put me on the path towards something that I had always wanted to do and didn’t really know how to get into,” she says. “I didn’t know how to become an angel investor or even approach becoming a venture capitalist. This gave me the entry point and access to an entire investor community, where I have focused on investing in women and founders of color.”
Francisco found the opportunity to merge her various skill sets in 2017 when Latina Circle, a nonprofit she cofounded, hosted an event centered on a racial wealth gap report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston called “The Color of Wealth in Boston.” Published in 2015, the report examined wealth disparities among people of color in the greater Boston area. The event examined the report and brought to light available financial mobility programs that were making an impact. One featured speaker was Compass Founder and CEO Sherry Riva, whose passion and focus on closing the racial wealth gap motivated Francisco to join the nonprofit financial services organization as their general counsel.
“She spoke about Compass, and why she started the organization, and we had very similar interests around helping women of low income households get access to wealth-building opportunities,” Francisco remembers. “It’s high-quality, culturally competent financial coaching, financial education, and asset building. [At Compass,] we meet people where they are and allow them to define what they want to achieve in terms of their hopes, their dreams, and their goals, and we have coaches who support clients by providing them with the resources and confidence to achieve their aspirations.”
Since 2010, Compass has supported families to collectively build over $6 million in savings, and has grown to reach more than 1,800 families each year, primarily in Greater Boston and Philadelphia. Compass is poised to expand to reach 5,000 families each year over the next two years.
For Francisco, who grew up in public housing in New York City, Compass’ emphasis on financial education, coaching, and building assets resonates personally. She notes that life could have been very different for people such as her mother if there had been access to financial resources and savings tools. Indeed, she says, that “would have been transformative.”
Francisco is incredibly proud of the work being done at Compass, where she oversees legal, compliance, and risk management and also supports HR; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and policy strategies. She points to a recent partnership that provided cash assistance to help clients who were experiencing job loss and food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Compass sent out a survey to find out what those clients needed at that moment, and many indicated they needed help with money. To that end, Compass collaborated with the Family Independence Initiative to help 339 families get $500 in direct cash assistance—and collaborated with United Way to do the same for an additional 20 families. Francisco even supported some clients who are small business owners in accessing grants and federal Paycheck Protection Program loans.
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Compass has also responded to the needs of its own team during the pandemic. The organization switched to working remotely and offered major perks such as reduced schedules and summer Fridays off, which benefitted working families. Additionally, the organization created a weekly town hall in order to encourage open discussions surrounding current events driven by the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
“It opened up a space where we can be very honest and transparent about how this is impacting us emotionally,” Francisco says. “Being able to do that in a workplace can be difficult, and we were able to do it because of the trust we built up during this time. I really enjoy and am inspired to be part of an organization where I can contribute to shaping the strategy and vision with a racial equity lens.”
Francisco is tremendously busy outside of the office. For one, she is a cofounder of the Investors of Color Network (ICN), which is building an ecosystem of Black and Latinx accredited investors to close the racial funding gap in start-up capital. One of ICN’s many goals is to activate and mobilize ten thousand investors of color to collectively create $100 million in new capital for Black and brown entrepreneurs over the next five years. Francisco also sits on several boards, including those of Amplify Latinx, Beth Israel Lahey Health, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the Boston Foundation, Roxbury Community College, and Eastern Bank’s Board of Ambassadors.
Increasing the representation of Black and Latinx leaders on corporate boards, government boards and commissions, and in elected positions has been and continues to be one of Betty’s top priorities. “One of the things I always take to heart when I serve on any of these boards is to leave a mark by ensuring that more of us have an opportunity to serve, [which I accomplish] by nominating Black and Latinx talent who bring their unique perspectives to these leadership roles,” Francisco says. “Once you get on a board, I feel you have an obligation to ensure that this diversity of views continues to be amplified and represented.”
The Boston Foundation, founded in 1915, supports a vital, prosperous city, where justice and opportunity are extended to everyone. It serves as home to the Latino Legacy Fund, which is dedicated to building a future of shared prosperity by supporting the economic and civic inclusion of all communities of color.