Understand their experiences; do consistent public outreach; and be open about your support.
If you’re looking to broaden your employee and customer base, attracting the LGBTQ+ community is a good place to start. A Gallup survey published in 2021 estimated that 5.6% of U.S. adults—18 million people—identify in this group.
Individuals from this community are not a monolith. Members are represented across a wide swath of ages, genders, occupations and wealth classes. So there is no one solution that speaks comprehensively to their professional experience and talent.
Additionally, individual experiences have changed—in some cases for the better over the last decade—but there is still no single solution that addresses the diverse financial needs of a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Professionals who serve them need to be both sensitive to their experience and well versed in offering pragmatic scenarios for overcoming cultural challenges and other barriers to receiving equitable financial services.
The LGBTQ+ community does not discriminate based on the sexual orientation of the professional serving them. What members of the community want is competent and attentive service that is responsive to the stories individuals in the community are telling.
The following tips can help your credit union make progress in attracting professionals and members.
Understand the Challenges and Opportunities That LGBTQ+ Professionals and Individuals Face
The progress the LGBTQ+ community has made in regards to civil rights has been important, but there has also been a backlash against individuals that threatens this progress. This extends to financial professions and services.
It’s important to understand that the majority of financial professionals are white and male and there are few incentives for that to shift unless you explain the spending value of the community and how to best attract both LGBTQ+ professionals and customers. You have to be willing to listen to their stories and understand that their experience and needs are different from the mainstream.
The following topics illustrate the sensitivity needed to serve the LGBTQ+ community.
Marriage: Although the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage at the federal level, many institutions that serve the LGBTQ+ community, including employers, health care providers and public agencies, don’t understand the benefits and obligations that marriage offers and how it can affect an individual’s wealth and financial management. That is why it is important to have professionals who can explain the implications of beneficiary naming, basic tax implications and healthcare beneficiaries as well as the importance of the power of attorney and inheritance rights. They must also examine their pensions and determine what path is best to address them.
Family Issues: Families are filled with competing cultural, emotional and financial dynamics that can undermine and impede growth both professionally and individually. To best serve the community and respond to demands for competent service appropriately, a few questions must be answered.
- Do they have children, what ages are they and are how are they employed, if they are in the job market?
- Are they caretakers for aging parents?
- Have they encountered supportive or hostile relatives and what is the status of those relationships?
Aging: Whether an individual is aging alone because they don’t have children or they have lost a spouse, it is important to take into account whether an LGBTQ+ individual wants to remain in their home, downsize, relocate to a less expensive city and more. So identifying assets and planning for their use in implementing a stay-at-home, relocation or retirement plan is essential. Additionally, it is important to work with non-profits, faith organizations and local agencies to help locate caregivers who are accepting of LGBTQ+ people who won’t contribute to the isolation of individuals who fear cultural and social reprisals in their old age.
The key barrier is always going to be based on fear of discrimination and shame. So it is important to offer both LGBTQ+ professionals and members a clear and open-handed welcome that defines the relationship from the start.
In reality, the LGBTQ+ individual can feel they are going through the trauma of coming out again in order to explain the details of their professional and individual financial goals. There is a lot of concern about a negative impact that coming out will have on the service the financial professional will provide. There is also a stigma for an LGBTQ+ professional to see those outside the community excel while they are relegated to second-hand citizen status, without a clear path for advancement and financial elevation. So it is on the employer to seek out LGBTQ+ individuals, to welcome them openly, and to train, support and encourage them to serve their community with the respect, love and support they deserve.
Be Consistent in the Public Outreach You Do
It takes more than just showing up for Pride Month in June every year to be perceived as authentic by the LGBTQ+ community. The key is going to be to network with other professionals, clubs and organizations that cater to LGBTQ+ individuals throughout the year. Sponsoring the gay chamber of commerce in your area is a great way to show support and do outreach that will provide a sense of authenticity and consistency in your messaging and branding.
Participation in these organizations by volunteering for committees and leading campaigns will make it even clearer that your credit union places a priority on serving the LGBTQ+ community.
Your members can also provide testimonials and expand the opportunities available for collaborating and serving the community.
Communicate Your Support Openly
In every way possible, let the public know that your commitment to the LGBTQ+ community both professionally and in a service capacity is transparent and comprehensive. Include this support in your marketing materials and online content, including your website. Include pictures of same-sex couples, testimonials about your commitment to diversity and information on the organizations that get your support that serve those communities, as well.
The more LGBTQ+ individuals see that a credit union supports professionals and offers services to the community, the more those individuals will feel welcomed.
David Treece, MBA, AIF®, CLTC, is the founder of Treece Financial Group, Miami.