AFROTECH Executive is set to close out in Brooklyn, NY. On Sept. 22, the last stop of the multi-city series will focus on wealth, finance, and innovation, including a fireside chat with Northwestern Mutual’s Abim Kolawole on corporate responsibility in closing the wealth gap.
Snag your tickets for AFROTECH Executive here.
The movement of closing the racial wealth gap has been a mission that drives Kolawole. For two decades, he has held numerous leadership positions at Northwestern Mutual. Now, Kolawole serves as chief audit executive and further backs the financial services company’s mission to relieve its clients from financial anxiety by creating a personalized financial plan.
Before being a leader at Northwestern Mutual, Kolawole experienced his own financial insecurity. Born to Nigerian parents, the Ithaca, NY, native shared with AFROTECH the experience he and his family had when moving to Nigeria after his father completed his studies at Cornell University in New York.
“Growing up in Nigeria, while financial security was and continues to be top of mind for all, we lacked the infrastructure and capabilities needed to enable the achievement of financial security for families at scale,” Kolawole told AFROTECH. “Families supported one another as organically as possible, but there was no comprehensive financial planning process with key supporting products and services.”
Early in his life, Kolawole envisioned being financially secure and building a legacy to leave for future generations, but he lacked the knowledge for how to obtain it. That was until he first joined Northwestern Mutual in 2003. From the start, he gained knowledge to better his finances, including having a financial advisor, who Kolawole says helped him create a comprehensive financial plan prior to starting a family.
“That plan has been a great roadmap for us and will enable us to fulfill our dreams and leave a legacy behind,” Kolawole shared. “This is so important to me because I believe that the ability to leave a legacy behind is a critical aspect to closing the racial wealth gap. The hope is that through our robust plan, our kids can have a better starting point, lower college debt, and build on the legacy to create generational wealth.”
Kolawole’s passion for helping to close the racial wealth gap aligns with Northwestern Mutual’s own efforts. The Northwestern Mutual Foundation has invested more than $60 million in schools to address educational disparities and aid in closing the opportunity gap for underrepresented students. In addition, the company supports Black businesses, improves home ownership accessibility, and educates college students.
“Northwestern Mutual doesn’t just acknowledge this gap, we actively work to address it,” Kolawole said. “There is nothing more important to me than working for a company that makes tangible and visible impact on our clients, employees and communities through its mission. This is a critical part of why I have remained at Northwestern Mutual for over two decades.”
When it comes to Kolawole’s belief that corporations have the power to improve wealth opportunities, he notes that leadership, vision, courage, culture alignment, and accountability are significant factors. In addition, boosting inclusivity, belonging, and diversity of perspectives is a key component.
“Finally, I firmly believe what gets measured gets managed,” he said. “So, it’s about accountability. Are you doing what you say you’re going to do? In our investment programs, for example, we’re working to look at not just where we’re putting our money, but what is it yielding in terms of small business growth and jobs? All of this ensures our commitment is authentic, inclusive, and sustainable because that’s what creates the difference between statements and actually bringing them to fruition.”
On Oct. 26, Northwestern Mutual is joining Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management to host an event titled, “Gather Against the Gap.” The discussion will focus on how organizations can combat the wealth gap and will be led by C-suite, academic, community, and VC leaders.
To learn from Kolawole’s fireside chat, “Corporate Responsibility in Closing the Wealth Gap: The Blueprint,” at AFROTECH Executive, click here.