New Rules of the Road for Gay and Lesbian Banking Professionals

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The cardinal rule of handling a banking interview if you are gay, lesbian or transgender is as follows: Whatever you do, "Do not come out if the company doesn't have a policy regarding sexual orientation or gender identity."

So says corporate diversity coach Brian McNaught, whose client list includes Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley and who has been dubbed "the godfather of gay sensitivity training," by the New York Times.

McNaught spoke to eFinancialCareers after moderating a panel event at Deutsche Bank headquarters at 60 Wall Street recently. Dubbed "Out on the Street," the event was dedicated to advancing the ranks of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) banking leaders, and set out to prove that gays and bulge-bracket banks need not co-mingle like oil and water.

Also participating at the Deutsche-hosted event were Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley.

Participants discussed progress to date-particularly the emergence of private banking and advice-giving practices for gay couples, by gay advisors. They noted that banks tend to follow the money trail and seek to capitalize on the fact that according to the latest findings, 76 percent of LGBT individuals have annual household incomes above the national average.

Following the event, McNaught spoke with eFinancialCareers about some basic issues for bankers who do not walk the straight and narrow-namely, how best to handle job interviews and what you can do if you feel unwelcome once you're hired.

Rule number one: If you are about to interview with a new bank and want your interviewer and potential employer to know you're gay, check out the company's Web site, searching keywords like "diversity" or "workforce," or go directly to the firm's mission statement. You can also easily pull up the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. and see what information comes up on your bank of choice.

For instance, is sexual orientation included in the firm's non-discrimination handbook? Are health, dental and vision benefits included for same-sex partners? At Deutsche Bank, the answer to all these questions is "yes," says HRC. DB also offers bereavement leave and relocation assistance to same sex partners, says the HRC index.

As for the job interview itself; here are McNaught's recommendations:

Be comfortable in your own skin. "You will be happier [on the job] if you come out but not if you aren't proud of being gay," he says. "Then it becomes a problem rather than something to value."

Don't view your sexual orientation as a problem. Don't present it as anything other than a positive. Assume the best. "Often we create problems that don't exist," says McNaught.

Don't "announce" you are gay. Instead, say something like: "I'm very interested in your company. One reason is I know you value diversity and I'm interested in becoming involved in your employee resource group." Or," Is that a picture of yourself and your wife on your desk? She's lovely. My partner Jim and I have been together 10 years."

Discuss what you bring to the table that is unique. If you've offered financial advice to same sex couples that have selected you as planner because you understand their worries, capitalize on it.

At the Wall Street forum, several financial advisors at Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and Barclays spoke at length about their success with LGBT client development. The panel spotlighted gay advisors uniquely suited to help same-sex couples with financial planning including tax and estate planning issues.

Assuming you get the job, what if you run into trouble with colleagues because of your sexual orientation?

A director and senior portfolio manager at Deutsche Bank dealing with institutional business for Deutsche Asset Management told the Wall Street forum that despite his overall success with the firm which hosted the LGBT forum, other men will often act squirrelly with him in the men's room.

Representatives of other banks at the forum agreed with a show of hands that they've had the same experience.

"I think humor is often the best tonic," says McNaught. So, if as soon as you walk up to the urinal it gets real quiet, you can smile and ask, "Was it something I said?"

If there are actual workplace jibes and your attempts at easing the tension are ultimately ineffective, try taking the culprit aside and talking to the individual more earnestly. If nothing changes, take a walk to the HR department, and tell your representative there that you feel you are working "in an unwelcoming environment bordering on hostile." </P

That's code for: There could be legal action because of these incidents.

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