Many financial advisers aspire to run an inclusive practice that welcomes a diverse mix of clients. But that’s easier said than done. Even the most open-minded advisers who treat everyone with dignity and respect can struggle to serve the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the best intentions, they may feel unsure of how to communicate with this market.
Part of the challenge is that advisers often lack familiarity with the life experience of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. They may not know the precise definitions of all these terms or feel confident asking for their business.
Yet this market is well-suited to benefit from advisers’ expertise. LGBTQ+ Americans are less likely to be on track to meet their financial goals, absorb unexpected expenses orbelieve in their ability to save for retirement, compared to the general population, according to a new survey by the Nationwide Retirement Institute.
With the LGBTQ+ community lagging on financial security, advisers have an opportunity to make a huge positive impact. The survey found that these individuals were less knowledgeable than the overall population on topics such as retirement planning, estate planning and stock investing.
For advisers eager to work with this community, the first step is self-education, says Rona Guymon, senior vice president of annuity distribution at Nationwide Financial in Columbus, Ohio.
She urges advisers not to lean too heavily on LGBTQ+ clients to provide a tutorial on what their life is like and what challenges they face. “Don’t expect them to educate you,” she said. “If you’re asking them a lot of questions because you don’t know, it does get tiring” for them to do all the explaining.
Instead, Guymon suggests that advisers take the initiative to learn about this audience in advance. Read about their lives and follow news stories about their experience in American society, especially if you do not have close friends or family who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community or who use gender-neutral pronouns.
“They want a vocal ally who is supportive of issues that they care about,” Guymon said.
To demonstrate your understanding and support, Guymon offers four tips:
1. Show empathy. Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community are less likely to hire advisers than the general population, preferring to turn to any other source of information on personal finance. Why?
“Perhaps they feel a financial [planning] professional won’t understand their unique challenges, like bias and discrimination they may have experienced in seeking financial services,” she said. “A lot of them have been negatively impacted in their careers. They may have lost promotions or faced job loss due to gender issues.”
An adviser’s ability to empathize with these challenges can build trust and set the stage for a productive working relationship.
2. Take a stand: While you don’t need to fill your office with rainbow flags, there are many ways to signal your alliance with the LGBTQ+ community.
“You can participate in a local Pride march, sponsor a Pride parade float or have a booth at a Pride event,” Guymon said.
3. Craft your bio: Show inclusiveness, both on your firm’s website as well as any online directories you use to gain visibility among prospective clients.
Members of professional groups, such as XY Planning Network or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, can list their advisory practice on the organization’s website. Certified financial planners (CFPs) can appear on the CFP Board’s website.
In these listings, include the LGBTQ+ community as one of the market segments that you serve.
4. Get the language right: When developing your marketing materials and web content, confirm that you are using inclusive wording. When you meet someone for the first time, go beyond the standard introduction. Said Guymon: “You can say, ‘Hi, I’m Rona. My pronouns are “she” and “her,”‘ and if you’d like, you can ask, ‘What are your pronouns?’”
In an instant, this can establish you as someone attuned to the kind of issues that matter to many people in the LGBTQ+ community. You can also add your gender pronouns to your email signature. “It puts you on a level playing field,” Guymon said. “It can also be a door-opener” for a rewarding, rapport-building conversation.
More: What LGBTQ couples need to know about retirement and estate planning – whether married or not
Also read: How LGBTQ investors can win at marriage, money, family and retirement