In a post ‘Yes’ vote Australia, where same-sex marriages are legal and increasingly common, Glen Hare believes advisers should be taking the opportunity to celebrate their inclusivity and review the way they interact with their LGBTI clients.
Hare, who runs Fox & Hare with fellow adviser Jessica Brady, says advice firms don’t need to be explicit in their support for the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community, but would be well-served by conveying an inclusive outlook.
“You don’t have to say that you want to work with LGBTI people on the homepage of your website,” Hare says, “but make sure that someone who was part of that community would know that you work with anybody, regardless of their orientation or background.”
Hare – who has been in a same-sex relationship with his partner for five years – is a passionate advocate for the LGBTI community, but says Fox & Hare is more focused on accepting clients of all persuasions than on servicing any particular community.
“The way we position our business is to ensure that we’re inclusive of everybody in the community regardless of gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity,” he explains. “Financial advice is personal and people want to ensure that they’re coming through a non-judgemental environment.”
Hare says that, while Fox & Hare doesn’t focus on the LGBTI community, the practice does get many people reaching out because of his own affiliations in that community. A common thread with same-sex clients, he observes, is that their previous adviser “had preconceived notions about some of the goals they might have”.
“An example is the adviser assuming the client would never want kids or can’t have them because they’re in a same-sex relationship,” Hare says, “which is completely false because, of course, there are adoption and surrogacy options.”
“Same-sex couples are as [varied] as everyone else,” he says.
Your whole self
The inclusivity issue is one Hare says extends to staff and clients. He works extensively with Out for Australia – a group whose mission is to provide role models and mentors for “aspiring LGBTI professionals” – and wants to encourage people to feel confident in bringing their “whole selves” to work.
“One of the largest cohorts of people that aren’t comfortable with their sexuality is those between the ages of 16 and 24,” Hare explains. “In that demographic, only around 28 per cent of people are bringing their whole selves to work and are comfortable sharing their true identity, which tells me that 72 per cent of those young people don’t feel comfortable with who they are.”
He says that for some people in financial services, there is still a perception that revealing their sexuality will negatively impact their careers.
“When I started working in my corporate career, I went back in the closet because I didn’t want the fact that I was a part of the LGBTI community to impact my career trajectory,” he reveals.
He says it’s incumbent upon firms to make it known that they have inclusive policies at all levels and suggests that by not doing so they may be missing out on the best talent.
“Someone who has just finished a finance or law degree, they’re ambitious and driven and really keen to pursue their career, so they don’t want anything holding them back,” Hare explains.
No typical avatar
Hare says the historic ‘Yes’ campaign, which led to same-sex marriages being legalised on December 9, 2017, helped create a sense of awareness in the community about LGBTI relationships.
He says this hasn’t caused too much material change to client arrangements for advisers; issues such as spousal contributions and joint tax returns have largely been accommodated by de facto allowances.
“There’s a lot of crossover with those that were legally married already,” he says.
What marriage equality has done, however, is reduce the uncertainty.
“From a client’s perspective, it’s taken out the ambiguity,” Hare says. “There’s no longer a need to kind of work out…‘Am I in a de facto relationship?’ or ‘Do I meet all the criteria?’ It’s now very much as black and white as it has been within the heterosexual community.”
The benefit of this certainty is that more people in the LGBTI community feel comfortable seeking financial advice, which is something Fox & Hare wants to encourage.
“We want to break down the typical avatar of what an advice client looks like,” Hare says.