I was settling the estate of a longtime client when his son shared life-changing news. He was transitioning to a woman and planning gender reassignment surgery.
I grew up in church — the son of a preacher — and was taught to love. It made sense to embrace our relationship. It turns out that extending support to my client's child provided the opportunity to grow my business by serving the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community, and advocating for their financial and personal needs.
My transgender client died of cancer four years after the surgery. While distributing her assets, I learned she had a large influence in the LGBT community, particularly with two churches. Within nine months, I had received 51 referrals from the LGBT community.
Each client presented unique financial challenges: a gay man with health issues trying to get disability and life insurance; lesbian couples planning for their children; clients interested in donating money to organizations that promote equal rights. But they all shared an eagerness about being able to speak with an adviser who made them feel comfortable as their authentic selves.
It became clear to me this was an opportunity for other advisers as well. The U.S. LBGT population is between 16 and 20 million people, and there are 1.4 million LBGT-owned businesses. Two-thirds of same-sex couples own a home, and about a third of LGBT individuals have annual incomes upward of $100,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Urban Institute.
As more people seek independent financial advice, we have an opportunity to support more investors when we take an inclusive approach to the work we do.
As I began to work with more LGBT clients, I turned to LPL Financial for support, including a video series with members of the LBGT community talking about financial planning challenges, and I've become involved in a pilot to develop LBGT-specific marketing resources.
Maybe you worry that you might say the wrong thing or inadvertently offend potential LBGT clients. I once used the wrong pronoun with my transgendered client, but she knew my heart was in the right place. I learned that all clients just want to be treated with respect.
Since last fall, we've brought in about $7.5 million in assets under management from the LGBT referrals. We're going to add a co-adviser to help share the workload and address several areas of diversity.
We're discovering that most of our clients have a family member, co-worker or friend who is LGBT. Once they realize we work with this community, they begin to refer those connections. For us, it's all about working with people and helping them create a financial plan that is just as unique as they are.
Christian Bridges is president and CEO of CapRock Wealth Advisors.