#Pride: How banks are reaching LGBT customers

As cities across the world mark LGBT Pride Month this June, banks are using these events as opportunities to reach new customers and employees.

Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, banks have been sporting the rainbow flag at Pride Month. All major North American banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citi are pulling out all the stops in their LGBT-inclusive marketing and participation in Pride Month. But LGBT marketing efforts go beyond just pride floats and bank-branded paraphernalia; they are elements of banks’ strategies to attract and retain customers and talent.

“We recognized that a lot of our customers are not traditional white families with about two kids,” said Ann Dyste, US Bank’s LGBT strategy manager, a position that was created eight months ago. “They are modern families of all varieties — we want to make sure all the services we provide are reflective of the community.” The bank has sponsored 33 festivals across 25 states, and was ranked a “best place to work” for the 10th year in a row by the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday.

US Bank found in its research that customers want to do business with companies that have an authentic interest in the community and its organizations. “We needed to take a step back and make sure we have the right kind of experience and there’s a person focusing on that end-to-end experience — it’s data driven.”

In addition to visibility on bank products (the bank launched a debit card in rainbow colors last month) Pride Month is an opportunity to draw attention to outreach materials geared at LGBT customers, including an LGBT customer-focused website that the bank launched two months ago. The website includes financial planning articles tailored to LGBT audiences, with recent headlines including “Modern Legacy Planning — Getting Started,” and “Is a joint bank account right for you and your partner?”

“A lot of it has been since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015 leveled the playing field,” Dyste said. “People are going through a series of firsts, and the lived history of going through that is much shorter than the general market and we’re trying to help them navigate.”

Affiliating a bank’s brand with inclusivity is important for customer retention and employee morale.

“It’s such a key celebration — we want to be there as a brand celebrating with them,” said Claudine Dupont, vice president of global brand and corporate sponsorship at TD Bank Group. “We are there year-round, but we also want to demonstrate our commitment for key celebrations for the community in general.”

TD is sponsoring 63 Pride events across North America, 30 of which are in the U.S. To banks like TD, Pride Month participation is an effort promote itself as a company open to both LGBT employees (TD has a 3,000-member LGBT pride network) and customers.

“You’ll see our efforts demonstrated through some of our marketing pieces,” said Dupont. “We were one of the first banks to advertise using same-sex couples in our mainstream advertising — it’s part of who we are.” The company has featured LGBT individuals in advertising and marketing products since 2008. 

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LGBT customers are a segment banks can ill-afford to ignore, said one analyst.

“Not so much support out of philanthropic reasons, but it’s one that has real business case reasons because of some of the distinctive characteristics of the market,” said Mike Wilke, founder of AdRespect, a nonprofit that promotes inclusivity of LGBT representations in advertising. “It’s a competitive and developed business sector,” he said.

Beyond overt community support and customer outreach, attracting and retaining talent is also an important motivation. The Royal Bank of Canada, a major supporter of pride festivities across Canada and in the U.S. through RBC Capital Markets, said maintaining a welcoming workplace place brand is an important objective of pride efforts.

“In terms of strategy, we focus on talent, clients and community,” said Norma Tombari, senior director of global diversity and inclusion at RBC. “For the LGBT segment, we’re looking at how we make the environment more LGBT-friendly and inclusive, and how can we communicate externally to attract top LGBT talent.”

Among the target demographics, RBC said younger people may more be more drawn to a company that aligns with their values.

“A lot of millennials are interested in working for an organization that has expressed values as it relates to inclusion in a way that’s not just general talk or general speak — they want to know what the organization is doing.”