Dean Velentzas

June is Pride Month, which means that companies and individuals are taking the time to uplift LGBTQ+ voices, celebrate LGBTQ+ culture and commemorate its history. From Google filters to Amazon’s specifically curated film series and reading lists, companies big and small participate in some way each year, either out of PR obligation or genuine enthusiasm. 

In the financial services sector, pride can be seen at bank-sponsored music festivals to logo changes on LinkedIn. 

Fintechs and alternative banking institutions have long been leaders in increasing inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community, from leading campaigns to allow trans folks to use their chosen names on credit cards to using alternative data sources to verify applicants (rather than relying on a driver’s license or passport, for example). 

Still, members of the LGBTQ+ community may still be at higher risk for credit discrimination as well as an increased risk for homelessness, particularly among trans youth. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that same-sex couples are 73% more likely to encounter a higher degree of mortgage application denials and higher fees/inteest rates. In the mortgage and other industries, when lenders set risk-based prices for their loans, there is a structural inequality within the system if any group is systematically deemed ‘higher-risk.’

Such has been the case historically for members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, certain fintechs have stepped up to the challenge of leveling the playing field and attempting to address these inequalities. One such example is Daylight, an LGBTQ+ digital banking platform that allows its customers to create accounts with their chosen names. Co-founder Billie Simmons told Fast Company, “We had established ourselves in our various careers by downplaying…aspects of our identity. What we quickly realized was that actually, this is our competitive advantage.” The Canadian Lenders Association spotlighted Daylight and other LGBTQ+ focused community banks here

Just as important as providing much-needed products, companies across the financial services industry need to take into consideration the workplace and how to foster more equity within their companies, from hiring onwards. TransUnion, for example, was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign in 2020 for achieving a perfect score on their Corporate Equality Index, a survey that reports on policies related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality, a survey administered by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation. 

Alphonso David, President of HRC said that companies in the corporate world are learning that “protecting their LGBTQ employees and customers from discrimination is not just the right thing to do — it is also the best business decision. In addition, many of these leaders are also advocating for the LGBTQ community and equality under the law in the public square. From supporting LGBTQ civil rights protections in the U.S. through HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, to featuring transgender and non-binary people in an ad in Argentina, to advocating for marriage equality in Taiwan — businesses understand their LGBTQ employees and customers deserve to be seen, valued and respected not only at work, but in every aspect of daily life.”

Key to knowing how to support the LGBTQ+ community–both in terms of product offerings and within the workplace–is understanding demographics. 

“Without relevant data, employers have a tough time setting targets, even if they have a strong commitment to inclusion,” says Colin Druhan, executive director at Pride at Work Canada, a group that empowers Canadian employers to increase gender diversity through advising, networking and community resources. 

“What we are learning from this research is going to help a lot of employers better understand how to make a measurable impact on the challenges we’re seeing instead of relying on assumptions and stereotypes, which only exacerbate the situation for queer and trans workers and jobseekers, Druhan continued.

Clearly, it’s important to gather demographic data of companies in the financial services industry related to their inclusion strategies, and to continually refresh this data as time passes. The Canadian Lenders Association is currently embarking on a new project of scope in order to gain insights and gather data around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace. We are circulating this survey and will use insights we extrapolate to make recommendations as to how companies can adjust and enhance their inclusion strategies. 

Please fill out the survey so we can have a robust data set with which to accomplish this goal! Happy Pride month!