Extending benefits to same-sex partners represents only one of the many differences in the needs of gay and straight employees. Gay employees and their same-sex partners need to be aware of and plan for a number of financial challenges that their straight counterparts may not have to. Community Business reached out to Mr Howard Clark Burton, Director at LGBT Wealth Ltd, to learn more about how companies can better understand these differences and the importance of addressing them in the workplace.
Can you please tell us a little bit about LGBT Wealth Ltd?
LGBT Wealth Ltd works with quality wealth management firms throughout the region to provide their LGBT customers with tailored financial services. We specialize in four main areas:
- Providing screened global insurance and investment solutions including, but not limited to, the first of its kind: our LGBT Diversity fund
- LGBT Ally training program for Financial Advisers
- Providing media exposure through online and paper channels
- Assistance with local promotional LGBT events
Why do you think it is important for companies to provide equal benefits for their LGBT employees?
First, it’s just good for business. Treating employees fairly increases the likelihood that they will stay with you longer and join in greater numbers. It also means that they can focus on their work, instead of dwelling on the fact that they are being treated unfairly. Second, providing benefits and being inclusive can also be a business opportunity. LGBT Wealth Ltd, and the work we do to reach out to the LGBT community, is a great example of this. Finally, from a moral perspective, it is discrimination to withhold equal benefits from LGBT employees. If we look through history, there have been all kinds of examples of discrimination – race, ethnicity, gender and so on. LGBT discrimination is no different and it is something companies should be aware of and take efforts to eliminate.
What type of services does LGBT Wealth Ltd provide for companies with regards to LGBT issues?
LGBT Wealth Ltd is working hard to support the LGBT community in Hong Kong. We recognised that many companies have not acknowledged the business case for creating an inclusive work environment for their LGBT employees. We took the initiative and developed an LGBT ally training programme for our clients to help them better understand the needs of their LGBT employees. This training has been successful in highlighting the importance of extending benefits to same-sex partners. It has also helped to position LGBT Wealth Ltd as a reliable and leading insurance and investment solutions provider.
What type of services does LGBT Wealth Ltd provide directly to the LGBT community?
We train our Partner Wealth Managers to understand the wealth management and investment needs of the LGBT community. Opposite and same-sex couples, straight and gay, have different investment needs. Same-sex couples typically have a lower expense ratio (likely two incomes and no children) and a higher disposable income. Same-sex couples or gay individuals will typically incur larger retirement costs due to preferred living locations such as an LGBT resort and a lack of government benefits such as housing assistance. Training our staff about these important issues not only ensures that LGBT individuals will receive tailored wealth management advice, it also ensures that LGBT individuals feel comfortable coming out to us and sharing their real financial needs.
To help promote these services and reach out to the LGBT community in Asia, LGBT Wealth Ltd has agreed to partner with fridae.asia (A popular LGBT website) to run the ‘Money’ section on their website. In this section we provide financial advice to the LGBT community.
Are these services available outside of Hong Kong?
We have partnerships across the region – including China, Taiwan, Singapore and more. This of course greatly increases our reach and gets our tailored products and services in the hands of more LGBT individuals who need them.
You have also started an investment fund that invests in LGBT friendly companies globally. Can you tell us more about that?
The investment fund is truly pioneering and is something that LGBT Wealth Ltd, in partnership with LGBT Capital and Newscape, is really proud of. By working with LGBT Capital, Credit Suisse has recently launched an LGBT Equality Portfolio that allows clients to invest in companies that are inclusive for LGBT employees and are also an attractive investment when measured by a more traditional valuation approach. The logic is that companies that are more inclusive will in the long run receive a positive impact on their bottom line. The Fund we have developed will invest in Credit Suisse’ Equality Portfolio along with similar structures – such as Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index in the UK – around the world. We hope this fund will give companies and individuals the opportunity to invest in workplace inclusion and push companies – who seek investment from this fund – to become more inclusive in their practices.