Jennifer Tescher is founder, president and CEO of Financial Health Network, a nonprofit venture capital firm based in Chicago. The firm opens the financial services industry to underserved consumers across economic, geographic and cultural spectrums. FHN’s Financial Solutions Lab Accelerator has grown to become one of the top fintech accelerators in the country since launching its first cohort in 2015.
FHN has cultivated a network of 160-plus member organizations, invested in 50-plus promising finhealth solutions through its Financial Solutions Lab, and delivered consumer insights and tools transforming policy and business practices.
“Our mission is to improve financial health for all,” Tescher says, “especially those who are most vulnerable. We work with companies and business leaders and innovators to help them understand the financial health needs of their customers, their employees and their communities, and then help them create strategies and solutions for improving it in ways that also benefit their own bottom line.”
The nonprofit generates about a third of its own revenue through a membership network and consulting. In addition, it generates income from its conferences. The rest comes from corporate and private philanthropy.
Its latest investment was a $3.5 million seed round for fintech Stackwell, an entry-level investing platform aimed at black consumers.
“We all know that there is a tremendous wealth gap in this country and we like the idea that Stackwell was trying to help close that gap,” Tescher says. “And we like the idea that the founder is a black man, and he knows this market intimately. Everything about the experience, the marketing, the solution is aimed at black consumers and what will motivate them, what will move them, what will work for them. We’re really excited about the progress that Stackwell is making.”
What’s more intriguing about Stackwell is a new partnership between it and the NBA and WNBA, working with a handful of teams in particular regions.
“They do events together — sometimes at games, sometimes separately in the community,” Tescher says. “It's a way for the NBA to essentially help Stackwell by leveraging its brand to get attention in a market that, as a new provider, Stackwell might have trouble reaching or it would be very costly to.”
These uncertain financial times has Tescher and her team coaching their portfolio companies to be careful now, rather than regretful later.
“With inflation at a high point and with a potential recession looming, we're really focused on working with our partners, our portfolio companies, our members to make sure that they are preparing for the choppy waters ahead — not just for their own businesses, but for the consumers that they serve,” Tescher says. “For instance, this is the time right now to be helping folks put away a little extra savings for when things might get tougher, or maybe they might experience a job loss. This is the time not to be extending too much more credit. This is the time to make sure that folks have a reasonable amount of debt and are positioned to keep paying going forward. So, we're really focused on making sure that we give consumers a soft landing and, frankly, be resilient in the face of what might have might come their way.”
Tescher spoke on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast about her company’s investment strategies and goals for assisting their partners during harsh economic times.