Ashley Bell | Photo courtesy of Alyssa Pointer, Leola Studios LLC

2023 Utah Business Leaders of the Year: Ashley Bell

Ashley Bell | Photo courtesy of Alyssa Pointer, Leola Studios LLC
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Pointer, Leola Studios LLC

Ashley Bell

CEO | Redemption Holding Company

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Utah Business is proud to present the inaugural cohort of our Utah Business Leaders of the Year award. These 12 honorees represent the greatest accomplishments of Utah’s business community in 2023 and were selected by the Utah Business editorial team.


o tell the full story of where this started for me, we’d have to go back to kindergarten,” says Ashley Bell, former White House policy advisor and Small Business Administration regional manager.

Bell is the CEO of Redemption Holding Company (RHC), an entity he formed with Dr. Bernice King, to fund and manage Black-owned banks. Their board will be crafted with highly educated and deeply experienced people, from the CFO of Major League Soccer to the Chief Information Officer of the NFL.

While a lawyer by trade, his history with banking runs deep. In 1934, his great-grandfather started a bank to finance sharecroppers in Georgia in an effort to reduce poverty in his community.

“There were over 130 Black-owned banks at the time,” Bell says. “But at every economic downturn, Black and brown people were the first to get fired. Since the Black-owned banks held these monies, this had a hard impact on them, too.” 

His own family’s bank was forcibly auctioned in 1976. Since then, Bell says the number of Black-owned banks has dropped significantly. When Bell was asked to lead the PPP loan distribution in 2020, he again had a front-row seat to the struggles of Black-owned banks.

Historically, Bell says Black-owned banks have the cards stacked against them: from disproportionately high loan default rates to targeted capital limitations, it’s become increasingly impossible to keep doors open.

“These are high stakes,” Bell says. “We are on the verge of losing a generation of entrepreneurs.”

These experiences informed the impact banking movement.

“Through Black-owned banks, we’re making banking accessible for everyone.”

“Crafted with Dr. King, impact banking is the concept that minority banks are mission-driven,” he says. “We’re looking for total racial integration—not only can we work in the same places, go to school, shop, but bank in the same place and be treated exactly the same.”

RHC’s first action will be acquiring and converting Holladay Bank and Trust into a minority depository institution. Although Utah’s Black community makes up only 2 percent of the population, Bell says the acceptance of the plans for Holladay Bank—to be branded outside the community as Redemption Bank, the first Black bank in the Rockies, has been overwhelming.

“Every leader in this state has a group of people that they’re fighting for, whether it’s better child care, addiction recovery or access to education,” he says. “There is an alignment of mission, of a commitment to improvement.”

Once the acquisition is completed, Redemption will become the 17th Black-owned bank in the United States.

While he hopes that Redemption will be an example for other non-minority banks in the U.S., he hasn’t stopped there.

“My kids will never walk into a bank, and their kids will never know there were even branches,” he says. “What we’re doing, not just at Redemption, but everywhere, we’re investing—we’re going to serve people where they live. Through Black-owned banks, we’re making banking accessible for everyone.”

Jacqueline is a Master of Accounting graduate from the University of Utah. Specializing in tax, she's interested in business, government, and the intersection of the two. When she's not studying or writing, she loves to run, play Candy Crush, and read novels.