In order to get truly bespoke advice, clients need to lay their entire lives bare – from information about their loved ones to how much money is in their bank accounts – to a complete stranger.
But when a client identifies as LGBT+, it can be that much harder, due to the fear of prejudice and discrimination.
To understand what LGBT+ clients look for, International Adviser met with one.
For the purpose of this article, he has been named Dennis.
Caution: Financial services
Dennis is a gay man who has been with his partner for 29 years, and is currently in a civil partnership. He has been very involved with his finances since the beginning of his professional career.
From opening a building society account, to savings and insurance; he always tried to make sure he had the right products in place.
But it wasn’t always easy.
“At one point, life insurance was very difficult to get a hold of,” he told IA.
Specifically because, during the 1980s and early 1990s, the financial products available to gay men were subject to a clause – a negative HIV test result.
And for some people, he said, “it was impossible”.
That was one of the reasons Dennis took matters into his own hands and started investing by himself and making decisions on his own behalf.
“It’s only recently that I started looking at my financial position, because I’m reaching a certain age.”
When the search started
Dennis admitted that, when he started looking for a financial adviser four years ago, his sexuality did not drive his search, but was definitely part of the decision process.
“I needed to have somebody that I felt comfortable with, and I would be happy to tell them a lot about my life.
“It had to be somebody, effectively a stranger, that I could talk to as if they were a friend or somebody I’d known for 10 years.
“And when I started looking around, two people were introduced to me. I spoke to one briefly on the phone and the other one I met with.
“Then I saw the one I’m with at the moment.”
Making the cut
But what was it that made Dennis chose that one over the others?
“It wasn’t obvious,” he admitted.
“But with a financial adviser, you’ve got to be able to get on with them and be able to talk to them. And the other people that I spoke to… they were efficiently detached.
“And I don’t think I noticed any difference when I said who my partner was, but they just didn’t feel right. Whether it was personal dynamic, or whether there was anything underneath, but it just didn’t work.
“You have to tell the two most personal things of your life: who you love and your finances.
“If there is anything you don’t touch at all, that’s politics,” he joked.
Is there a difference?
“Technically, there shouldn’t be any difference whatsoever. But largely, yes there is,” Dennis said.
“I mean, [for the generation that lived through the HIV/Aids epidemic] you’d live for today. Because it was possible that you weren’t going to have a tomorrow, especially anybody who was diagnosed as HIV positive.
“The first thing an awful lot of people did was cash in their pension. So, in that respect, there will be people who, obviously, now need to have done something different.
“It’s totally different, yet it can be so much the same.”
Dennis has been with his partner for nearly 30 years, but it wasn’t until he started working with his financial adviser that he felt at ease revealing it.
“It’s only in the past three or four years, I suppose, that I’ve actually put [my partner] down on my pension as being my beneficiary.
“Because I worked on the basis that I thought he would get it anyway. I didn’t realise that I actually did need to name him.
“When I first joined my employer, it was a different world, things were kept a lot more discreet. You just were that little bit more reserved and withheld; which, looking back at it, is wrong, but that’s how it was,” he said.
While he didn’t experience discrimination firsthand, what was going on around him was enough for him to think twice about asking for certain products, or talking about his personal life.
“It probably did stop me from doing certain things. I would rule things out because I knew that it just wouldn’t be easy. And therefore, it was easier not to do something than actually do it because of the path you would have to take.”
It shouldn’t matter
Dennis believes that prejudices or personal views on sexuality and gender identity have no place in financial advice.
“My view is that if somebody is an adviser, and they want to advise somebody, in this respect, the [money] is the thing that drives them.
“I think money is the great leveller in that respect. I’m sure there will be people who have their personal prejudices that will maybe act in a different way. But I haven’t encountered that directly.
“It’s a barrier to business, as far as I’m concerned. People should be treated exactly the same.”
All you need is trust
That was also one of the reasons why Dennis stuck with his financial adviser. When he told them his partner’s name all they said was “alright, okay” as if it was just natural, a piece of information they needed to use to give him the best advice possible.
“If you’ve gone through the pain, or are going to go through the pain, of creating financial stability within your life; you’ve got to make sure that you can trust the person you’re dealing with.”
To celebrate Pride month, and to mark 50 years since the Stonewall movement begun in 1969, International Adviser is publishing a series of profiles of LGBT+ professionals to understand their working and personal experiences in navigating the sector.
Last Word is the exclusive industry media partner of LGBT Great, a financial services representative organisation focusing on diversity and inclusion.