March 19, 2014 03:00 ET

Nationwide Building Society Calls on Financial Services Industry to Improve Relationships With LGBT Customers

Ex-England Rugby star and straight ally Ben Cohen supports call to win trust of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as survey highlights gap in service

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - March 19, 2014) - A challenge to be more relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers has been presented to the financial services industry after issues of trust and confidence were highlighted in a new survey.

Findings from the national research, commissioned by Nationwide Building Society, were today announced at Nationwide's London offices in Threadneedle Street, Bank, hosted by Nationwide's Executive Director of Retail, Chris Rhodes, and 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Ben Cohen - straight ally and Chairman of the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation which is working to eradicate bullying. Those attending included LGBT networks from the finance industry, marketing professionals and the gay rights charity, Stonewall.

Stonewall estimates that between 5-7% of the UK population is LGBT, equating to around 4.5 million people* and representing significant business opportunities to those companies making the effort to meet their needs.

The survey, which forms part of Nationwide's ongoing commitment to promoting diversity among both its 17,000-strong workforce and 15 million customers, is a precursor to a wider industry debate on how to better serve the needs of LGBT customers. Although the industry has made strong progress in breaking down barriers, the results highlighted specific areas for focus, including the need to highlight ethical practices, being supportive of the LGBT movement, implementing effective LGBT employment policies and including LGBT people within advertising and media.

Results from the poll reveal seven in ten people (70%) would switch to a bank or building society that took their issues seriously. More than two thirds (68%) of the LGBT customers surveyed feel that their financial services provider is not taking serious steps to understand them.

Issues around confidence were high on the agenda, with less than half (44%) of people saying they would confidently disclose their sexuality as part of a financial transaction with their provider or advisor, regardless of whether it was face-to-face, online or on the telephone. A further 24% of those polled said they were likely to withhold their sexual orientation because it was felt that a decision might go against them, or that a premium or product would be more expensive.

Other findings showed:

  • 70% would switch providers if they believed a financial services provider took LGBT issues seriously
  • 13% have experienced an uncomfortable situation with a financial services provider because of their sexuality. This rises to 17% for women, compared to 11% for men.
  • Nearly two thirds (65%) would switch providers to one that trains customer service staff on issues and concerns LGBT people may have regarding banking finance
  • Women are less likely than men to be happy revealing they are in a same-sex relationship during a face-to-face meeting with a mortgage advisor, with one in five (20%) not being comfortable, compared to 12% of men.
  • Around four in ten (39%) of LGBT people have not made adequate pension or financial plans for themselves and their partner. The gender divide was notable, with a third of men (33%) and nearly half of women (47%) having not made plans.

The research highlighted the areas where financial services providers could be doing more in order to capitalise on the LGBT market, with a number of factors cited as having the potential to persuade a customer to leave their current provider. These included:

  • 80% consider ethical banking practices an important attraction point.
  • 70% would be influenced through effective LGBT employment policies and support.
  • 71% said they would be influenced through more LGBT people featuring in mainstream media in relation to a particular company.
  • 71% believe products relevant to LGBT customers could be a deciding factor.
  • 68% would be drawn to companies focussing on corporate citizenship and supportive of LGBT groups, events or charities.
  • 63% would be influenced through LGBT advertising within LGBT media.

Chris Rhodes, Nationwide's Executive Director for Retail and Executive Sponsor for LGBT, said: "The results of this study make for interesting reading. While some progress has been made in the financial services industry in recent years, when it comes to marketing to and serving LGBT customers, there is still more financial providers can do to ensure these customers feel supported and included. I don't feel this is something that has been given the consideration it deserves.

At Nationwide, we recognise the importance of a diverse workforce, one which reflects our customer base. It makes sound commercial sense and helps Nationwide deliver high standards of service. We are committed to furthering our LGBT agenda within Nationwide and have been recognised by Stonewall as one of the UK's top employers, in addition to our LGBT network having been rated as a Star Performer by the charity. However, there is still more we can do to raise awareness of this important issue and this survey is hoped to open a dialogue with the industry to ensure we all do our best to cater for all customers, irrespective of background."

Ben Cohen said: "This research is an important step to understanding customers better and shows that as much as everyone is different, we all deserve the right to be treated with respect. This is a positive movement and will hopefully lead the way for institutions to encourage equality whilst also being commercially beneficial. It is a win-win proposition and equality is something I'm proud to support."

Simon Feeke, Stonewall Head of Workplace said: "Every business knows that their success relies on them understanding and communicating effectively with customers. Lesbian, gay and bisexual consumers make decisions on the basis of a business's perceived inclusion of them. When businesses get this right, they secure consumer loyalty from millions of gay people and their friends and families. Millions more consumers will also be attracted, sensing that the relaxed inclusion of gay people in advertising or marketing strategies is a sign of a 21st-century product or service."

Notes to editors:

  • * Based on UK population of 63.7 million and calculated at 7% of population (4,459,000)
  • Nationwide was ranked in the Top 100 list in the Stonewall Equality Index with a 'Star Performing' employee led network which has a board level executive sponsor.
  • Diversity awareness forms part of our staff induction at Nationwide; this includes LGBT.
  • LGBT anti-bullying material is to be included on Nationwide Education, in partnership with Stonewall. This will provide another distribution channel to ensure the issue of homophobic language and bullying in schools is addressed, in addition to engaging and discussing different modern family units.
  • Nationwide has featured same sex couples on marketing material.
  • Nationwide is creating a mentoring programme for local schools for LGBT staff to support students and give presentations in schools to raise awareness.

The research:

  • The research sample was collected from the Out Now consumer panel, which is made up from respondents from Out Now's LGBT2020 research who have opted- in to take part in further LGBT related research projects. 619 people responded to the survey.
  • The Out Now Business Class LGBT2020 research project is the largest study into the lives of LGBT people globally that has ever been undertaken. To date the study has sampled nearly 100,000 people globally - gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in twelve languages from 21 countries on six continents on many aspects of their lives. From LGBT travel and tourism patterns, lifestyle habits, consumer expenditure, incomes, spending, discrimination and entertainment preferences - the LGBT2020 project is a ground-breaking project from Out Now which is giving unparalleled insight into the lives of real LGBT people from all over the world.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the UK's largest building society as well as a top-three provider of household savings and mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million retail customers. Customers can manage their finances in a branch, on the telephone, internet and post.

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Twitter: @NationwidePress


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