Client Stories

Closing the Wealth Gap by Investing in Communities


How a vision for a better future and shared values between a minority-owned lender and a global bank helped a small business to thrive and benefited the community.

Founded in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1921, Optus Bank built trust through a customer-focused, personal approach grounded in the belief that everyone should have access to wealth-building services.

Like many businesses, Optus Bank had reached a plateau and didn’t have the capabilities needed to bring the next level of service offerings to their customers.


At a July, 2019 FDIC Forum in Washington, DC, Optus President and CEO Dominik (Dom) Mjartan had an unplanned conversation with Jansen Sauvageau, BNY Mellon’s Director of Public Sector Treasury Services. Dom and Jansen were introduced by a member of the U. S. Department of the Treasury who managed the Financial Agent Mentor-Protégé Program.


  • Enabling equitable access to wealth-building services
  • Investing in neighborhoods through community banking
  • Enhancing lending to strengthen small businesses

Kadenia Javis sits down with Jansen Sauvageau and Dominik Mjarten to discuss how BNY Mellon and Optus Bank are helping her build a foundation for growth in her community.

Building a Bridge


The two banks differed greatly in size and scope, but they also had in common a respected history and an eye toward the future.  “We’re trying to reverse a legacy of 400 years of disparities,” Dom said of the Optus mission. Optus needed additional expertise and resources to further their work and perhaps BNY Mellon could help.

“Dom and I hit it off,” Jansen said. “I was impressed by the work they were doing in their community and thought we could shine a light on it.”



Joining the Financial Agent Mentor-Protégé Program


Jansen shared the idea of BNY Mellon joining the Financial Agent Mentor-Protégé Program with his colleague, Managing Director Patrick Vatel, who was immediately on board and excited about ways they could strengthen Optus’ consumer banking framework. The pair arranged a meeting in New York with Dom and members of the BNY Mellon Executive Committee.


Their spirited discussion generated strong enthusiasm for a focused effort to tackle inequities at the local level and that’s when the idea of creating a BNY Mellon community banking team was born.




Columbia, SC

Original Name

Victory Savings Bank

Number of Employees


“The Executive Committee was very supportive of our relationship with Optus right from the start,” Jansen said. “As well as moving forward with our commitment to support underserved communities.”


Drawn from multiple lines of business, the BNY Mellon team spent two full days with Optus reviewing operations and developing a strategy. Growth opportunities for new products and services were identified, gaps in their operations streamlined and digital-banking services modernized.


“To have executives from one of the largest banks in the world reach out and understand the purpose of minority-owned banks and their mission-driven philosophy, was really impressive,” Dom said.

To have executives from one of the largest banks in the world reach out and understand the purpose of minority-owned banks and their mission-driven philosophy, was really impressive.

— Dominik Mjarten, Optus Bank President and CEO

Account Validation Service Product Launched to Support Initiative


In addition to BNY Mellon’s trusted advisory role, and to further strengthen Optus’ consumer banking framework, in April of 2021, BNY Mellon implemented an Account Validation Services product that enforced stronger fraud mitigation around the Optus payments model. Financial resources were also needed, so in July 2021, BNY Mellon made an initial deposit of $3 million at Optus. 


Buoyed by this support, Optus was now positioned to increase their existing community engagement and enhance lending to new homeowners and minority-owned small businesses.


“Banks enable the global economy to function,” Jansen said. “It’s the people on the ground—the individuals—that really bring the community together.”

A Story Behind the Numbers With Kadenia Javis


Kadenia Javis was a proud member of this community. As founder and CFO of Javis Financial Services also in Columbia, SC, her business offered a suite of quality and affordable tax, credit repair, bookkeeping and insurance offerings.


Kadenia made it her mission to address economic disparities by increasing financial literacy among those of low-and moderate-income. But when her business outgrew their leased office space, she looked for an opportunity to purchase a commercial building. Her vision was to create an establishment that could serve as an anchor in the community and a source of stability for her employees and clients.


Kadenia had an excellent personal credit score but because she had been renting her existing space, she had not built significant business credit. Unfortunately, this is a challenge that thwarts many small business owners.

Banks enable the global economy to function. It's the people on the ground—the individuals—that really bring the community together.

— Jansen Sauvageau, BNY Mellon Director of Public Sector Treasury Services

A Real-World Impact


After some research, Kadenia discovered Optus and was impressed with how they worked toward narrowing the wealth gap by providing services to people and businesses traditionally overlooked.  Seeing how their missions aligned, Kadenia visited the branch office.


“I began working with Optus after being denied by a bank I had been with for 22 years,” Kadenia said. “They took a chance on this small minority girl trying to get something started.”


Optus worked with Kadenia to bolster her business credit and assemble a package to finance a new building. When she threw a grand opening party in her new office, she invited the Optus team to join the celebration. Kadenia knew she had made the right decision by partnering with Optus.

Banking on the Future


Thanks to lending support from Optus, Javis Financial’s brick and mortar business grew and Kadenia is motivated to pay it forward. “What we have to do now is set the foundation for those coming up behind us,” she says.


This work continues as the two banks collaborate to expand the capacity, market reach and community reinvestment opportunities for Optus with access to BNY Mellon products, services and infrastructure.


Investing in our neighborhoods through community banks provides more opportunities for people to pursue their own American dream.

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