For most, banter is simply the exchange of playful remarks or teasing and is often a sign of inclusion.
This is the opposite for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and plus (LGBT+) members of investment management.
A recent survey of 100 LGBT+ individuals in the investment management industry across three continents, conducted by LGBT Great, showed how damaging this culture is, with 25% considering leaving their current employer due to so-called banter. Out of the respondents, 40% reported they had either heard or experienced homophobic or transgender ‘banter’ at their workplace.
Charlie Nicholls, founder of LGBT+ focused wealth firm Equality Capital, counts himself in the lucky 60%, who have not directly experienced this type of banter. However, he is not blind to the fact that it exists, especially in the investment industry, which Nicholls describes as having ‘quite a laddish culture’ that can be counter-productive.
So the big question is, what do firms need to do to improve the experiences of LGBT+ employees?
Peter Holmes, director at Stonewall UK, an LGBT+ equality charity, states that being an LGBT inclusive employer is a process that starts with everyday actions. Some of these are as simple as pledging support for Pride days or the Trans Day of Remembrance.
‘Hosting LGBT networking events, profiling LGBT role models in the workplace or offering diversity training to staff. Each of these kinds of initiatives can help create a work environment where LGBT staff can be themselves and, because of that, thrive at work.’
Despite the relative ease of implementing some of these initiatives, the survey found there is a lack of LGBT+ visibility and, in particular, role models and networks.
Some 54% said that there is no LGBT+ network in their workplace; 62% said they have no allies, and 72% cited they felt they had less than 10 allies they knew of in the workplace.
Nicholls pointed out that some of the easy fix policies can sometimes be no more than a box ticking exercise, unfortunately.
Holmes agrees and warned that no workplace is the same, cautioning against the one-fits-size-all approach.
‘Employers need to listen to the needs of their lesbian, gay, bi and trans employees and address the challenges they face. This means creating safe spaces for LGBT employees to come together, discuss their issues and offer their own potential solutions.’
The need to discuss issues like banter is a point Nicholls raised, highlighting that there is an onus on LGBT+ people to speak up too.
‘The need to build a culture of inclusiveness is about calling out discrimination when you see it – so other people see it. However, in the case of banter, it is not always intentional; so people are not intending to cause offence but people are feeling offended,’ he said.
He does not believe that the people behind the banter are necessarily bigoted, but the issue is about making sure people are aware of what they are saying and how it could affect other people at the organisation.
Despite the headline figures not being great for investment management, eight organisations from the banking and finance sector made the top 100 LGBT employers list, compiled by Stonewall: Lloyds Banking Group at five, Citi at eight, JP Morgan at 39, RBS at 83, Macquarie Group at 86 and Credit Suisse at 93.
Karin Cook, Lloyds Banking Group’s executive sponsor for sexual orientation and gender identity, said: ‘We work hard to ensure that our transgender and non-binary colleagues feel able to be themselves and reach their full potential, as well as striving to improve our services and interactions for our trans customers.
‘However, we do not want to stop here and recognise there is still more to do. That is why we are working in partnership with the trans community to ensure we provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.’
These more progressive firms are set to benefit in the future, with 46% of respondents saying they looked at evidence of LGBT+ inclusion when seeking a new job.