‘Patronising’ attitudes drive diverse clients away

It takes more than an open mind to serve LGBT+ customers


Cristian Angeloni

Financial advisers generally have a diverse pool of clients who come from different backgrounds.

And in order to meet their clients’ needs, advisers have to be able to relate to them on both a personal and professional level.

At the end of the day, if clients don’t feel comfortable around their adviser, there is nothing stopping them from switching to a different one.

And that is even truer for LGBT+ clients, Susan Hill, chartered financial planner at her eponymous company, told ESG Clarity’s sister publication International Adviser.

“As an adviser, I do have a number of clients who are LGBT+. I think, if you asked them, they would say they actually sought me out because I’m female,” she said.

Empathy, or lack thereof

Hill said that being a female adviser sets her apart from the stereotypical financial planner and their somewhat ‘traditional’ practices.

“I think that the typical adviser – who is male, 50+, bald-headed – is patronising.

“They are patronising to women in the first place; so, they’re going to be patronising to anybody who’s just not like they are.

“And I think, for many people, they just want somebody with a sympathetic voice, and they maybe think that a female is more sympathetic, which I think they probably are.”

Another thing that makes Susan Hill Financial Planning fairly unconventional, and possibly more attractive to LGBT+ clients, is that part of her business was acquired from a transgender woman who was looking to retire.

LGBT+ shouldn’t matter

That a client is in a same-sex relationship is irrelevant, Hill said.

The only thing that matters is that they are in a relationship, because that comes with financial planning needs.

“What I ask people is: ‘Do you have any anybody who you have financial inter-dependence with, or people who are financially dependent on you?’ And sometimes people will refer to their other half as their partner. Well, I can’t tell from that word whether it’s a male or female partner.

“And it’s irrelevant to me, actually.

“The fact is, I know there’s somebody that they need to look after, who needs to be financially supported, if anything happens to them.

“And then, eventually, at some stage, they’ll drop the name, and I kind of work it out,” she added.

Are needs any different?

Hill revealed to IA that, while circumstances for clients in same-sex relationship may be different, they are usually more financially sound than heterosexual couples.

She said: “When you get an opposite-sex, male-female, the female tends to have stopped work at some stage in order to have children, and her pension planning is lacking.

“But when you’ve got two males and even two females, they tend not to have children.

“They’ve had no break in their earnings and they tend to be more financially stable; they’ve both got earnings and they’ve both got retirement income.

“In that way that, they are slightly better off than opposite-sex couples.”

What can be done?

There are many ways advisers can be mindful of the client sitting opposite them, and when it comes to LGBT+ clients, they should never make assumptions.

“For many years now, since civil partnerships came in, I just make sure that my language is correct,” Hill said.

“And I don’t ever make the assumption that when somebody says a partner, that it’s the opposite sex. I always use the word partner or spouse, I don’t use husband or wife, until I’ve established what that is.

“I don’t ever want to put anybody in a situation where they might feel hesitant about me, or they might feel that I might be making assumptions or have my own agenda with something.

“I’m quite careful with my language, my terminology, that’s probably the one thing that I do.”

Just listen

There is an inherently emotional aspect to people’s money, and being able to understand what matters to them and how to give the best advice possible is the end goal.

But the advice is the easy bit, Hill admitted.

“There are lots of emotional things that go with financial planning, actually, and having a same-sex relationship is just one of them.

“But, also, most people don’t see a financial adviser until there’s a change in their life, and there is something happening that they need to do something about.

“And really, my job as an adviser is to get to what’s important to them about money, just get to the root of what they want.

“Then, resolving it is quite easy, but understanding people and getting to know their needs is the hardest part. That requires you just to listen and to ask the right questions.

“Sometimes it gets them to cry. Some people cry about things, because you know it is important to them.”

  • This article first appeared on ESG Clarity’s sister site International Adviser.

Last Word is the exclusive industry media partner of LGBT Great, a financial services representative organisation focusing on diversity and inclusion.


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