Banks show their pride

Banks support the LGBT community at Hong KongÆs annual gay pride parade.

The Hong Kong lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) interbank group marched in line with a sea of pink shirts to the occasional bursts of "We Are Family" at this year's Hong Kong pride parade.

Ran de Silva, Asia-Pacific head of diversity at UBS, said that the group wants to "show support for the LGBT community in Hong Kong". She explained that they promote acceptance of homosexuality inside the financial services community as well as in the community at large.

The interbank marching contingent at yesterday's pride march consisted of approximately 25 gay or gay-friendly members. Their banner, written in Chinese, was in rainbow colours and included the logos of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and UBS.

"UBS management was adamant that we have the logo," said de Silva.

The interbank group is made up of representatives from 13 banks -- aside from the four already mentioned, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered and Wachovia are also represented. According to marchers, the group was set-up three to four years ago.

Yesterday's march marked only the second time Hong Kong has had an official gay pride parade. Organisers estimated that 1,800 people marched, up from last year's 1,000.

To see the support of financial institutions at a gay pride parade is surprising -- and welcome. Reggie Ho, a volunteer with the Hong Kong gay support group Horizons, said he has heard from a number of local bankers that the atmosphere inside banks is not very gay friendly -- a common stereotype for the financial industry.

De Silva and other members of the interbank group said they promote LGBT-friendly activities, including film festivals and other events that are advertised to the six institutions' entire Hong Kong-based staff.

"Diversity is critical to being a successful business," said one banker who wished to remain anonymous. His bank requires every employee to participate in annual diversity training, part of which includes an LGBT-specific curriculum.

"We make sure the workplace is inclusive," he continued. "The Stonewall group in the UK has found that if an employee is out, [he or she is] more productive."

In addition to its events and to joining the pride march, the Hong Kong interbank group pushes LGBT employment best practices at its member institutions. Best practices include benefits, hiring, promoting and retention of homosexual employees.

"To stay competitive, banks have to stay far advanced in LGBT best practices," said the banker.

Promotion of best practices, film festivals and marching in pride parades is all fine and good, but truly changing the atmosphere within banks -- or any corporation for that matter -- is a slow process. Hong Kong's LGBT interbank group has the right idea, but the sentiment Ho described is likely to persevere for some time to come.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
Share our publication on social media
Share our publication on social media