While NBA superstar Russell Westbrook is known for stacking up triple doubles on the court, one of his business ventures outside of the arena aims to help communities stack up their bank accounts. The Washington Wizards superstar's latest venture, a partnership with Varo Bank which he led on a $63 million fundraising round, is set to help members of underserved communities get the tools needed to become financially literate.
Donnell Beverly, president of Russell Westbrook Enterprises, said the athlete's personal experience growing up in such a community provided the motivation to give back.
"Financial literacy is something that Russell knows is empowering communities — communities of color, underserved communities — to build generational wealth. So, being at the forefront of financial literacy and standing there and letting communities know this is a way to empower your household and generations to come was really important to Russell," Beverly told Cheddar.
As part of the deal with Varo Bank, Westbrook will be taking a very hands-on advisory role that Beverly said will help the mission as he is able to "authentically and organically" connect with familiar communities.
For Varo Bank COO Wesley Wright, the monetary investment is secondary compared to the star power and visibility that Westbrook brings to the brand. With the all-star onboard, the bank has an opportunity to really develop solutions "for people who really need it," he said.
"Varo is an all-digital bank focused on everyday Americans and looking to provide really high-quality financial services without a lot of punitive fees. What differentiates us is we're the first all-digital bank to get a national banking charter, the same as Citibank or Bank of America, which allows us to offer a full suite of services to customers — deposits, lending, investments — to help them build their financial future," Wright noted.
Among other things Westbrook and Varo are setting out to do is provide people with access to affordable credit. While financial literacy is the current focus for Westbrook, Beverly said the team is also looking to connect with businesses that align with their social aspirations.
"Looking at industries like healthcare and nutrition, things where we can have a real social impact," Beverly said, noting that coupling Westbrook's "social activism with capital investments is a way to really drive value to companies and also impact the communities."
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