LESS than three years ago the Commonwealth Bank (CBA), had an employee leave a regional branch because he was told he was “too gay” for the bank. Now they are positioning themselves to be the country’s most inclusive employer with a trailblazing program currently underway, aiming to create greater understanding and acceptance of the needs of LGBTI employees and customers.

According to Liam Buckley, one of Australia’s largest banks is doing more to connect with the LGBTI community.

“The new program launched this week is following on from the success of the bank’s internal LGBTI community and allies network, Unity, since it was launched earlier this year in February,” he said.

A member of Unity’s steering committee, Buckley told the Star Observer this week that the group was created in response to better highlight the contribution of LGBTI employees within the company after senior managers were alerted to some of the challenges they faced.

“I’ve been at CBA for almost three years. When we set up the LGBTI Inclusion Strategy late last year I was asked to represent my business unit on the steering committee,” he said.

“The thing I’m the most proud of is that Commonwealth Bank is prepared to step forward and have the conversation about what does an inclusive environment look like and how can we make this environment more supportive of everyone where you can actually be yourself.”

Now with more than 700 people registered on Unity’s dedicated, internal, networking group, the bank last week commenced a pilot program that will see CBA employees taking a much more proactive approach when dealing with LGBTI customers.

Key staff – including area and regional managers – from branches at Paddington, Surry Hills, Potts Point, Newtown, Broadway and Sydney’s CBD took part in workshops with Buckley and other members of Unity giving guidance to CBA employees on how they can use language and shared experiences to better connect with LGBTI people.

“What we focus heavily on is making sure that our teams have the right language to use when dealing with LGBTI customers. We work through exactly what LGBTI stands for and means. Not everyone really understands that so we make sure they had access to that … and making sure that they use language that supports our customers to disclose their situations,” Buckley told the Star Observer.

“We don’t have a special set of products or services to LGBTI customers as all our products are suitable for them. We just want them to feel more comfortable to share their stories so we can then match products more appropriately to their needs.”

The pilot program is expected to run in Sydney over the next few months before a decision will be taken to roll it out more extensively.

“You get really proud when you realise so many people are prepared to be involved with these things. Each of the branch managers around the table [at the workshop] were sharing their story of service to this community and making sure that we are creating an environment where everyone can be themselves and we can support them in reaching their potential,” Buckley said.

“I think the challenge in all inclusion strategies is to make sure you’re listening and that’s what we’re doing.”

With operations spanning Australia as well as New Zealand, Fiji, Asia, USA and the United Kingdom, CBA employs about 45,000 people around the world. Earlier this month, the bank indicated it was again on track for another record annual profit, with many analysts tipping a full-year profit of almost $8.3 billion.

Image (L-R): Alex Perry, Branch Manager Broadway; Ze Zalghout, Branch Manager Newtown; Liam Buckley, Unity Steering Committee Member, General Manager Enterprise Services Finance; Yongko Henwidjaja, Branch Manager Surry Hills; Silu Rai, Relieving Branch Manager Paddington.

See Also Opinion: Why equality is important from Matt Comyn, Group Executive – Retail Banking Services, Commonwealth Bank

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