The first friend I made when I began my reporting career in New York City nearly 20 years ago was Dante Nuno, who worked in the HR department at the publishing firm I joined. He was fabulous fun and I had some of the best times of my life with him, discovering parts of New York I wouldn’t even have known existed. Oh, and he was gay.
Yes, through him I met a lot of crazy party animals, frivolous guys who spent every cent they had on accumulation and appearance. But I also met a number of others (Dante himself was one of them) who were among the most financially savvy professionals I have ever come across, who were careful with their money and where they invested it, and who taught me more than a thing or two about financial planning and financial goals.
Now advisors can meet those same kinds of people through a site called dot429, a professional network for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community (LGBT) and their allies. Members come from all walks of professional and artistic life, says Elliot Tomaeno, media spokesperson for dot429, and they’re the elite of the LGBT community. dot429 is the brainchild of Richard Klein, founder of Surface magazine and a star in the world of design, and its goal is to connect members of the LGBT community working in different fields who might be able to do things together to achieve greater professional success.
“It’s like a Linkedin for LGBTs,” Tomaeno says, “but it’s the kind of site that also helps others get to know who’s who in the community. It would be a great site for financial advisors to get onto, yes.”
The site organizes regular in-person get-togethers and brunches in the nation’s gay-friendly cities, specifically Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and New York. These are networking events that anyone can attend, Tomaeno says. In fact, dot429 is rapidly attracting members who are not LGBTs, not least in the financial services industry (even erstwhile private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts is a member, he says).
It’s no secret, particularly given its success in the arts, that the LGBT community offers great potential for financial advisors. According to a recent study (the sixth edition, conducted by Witeck-Combs Communications and Packaged Facts entitled, “The Gay and Lesbian Market in the U.S.”), the total buying power of the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adult population in 2010 is projected to be $743 billion. That’s a big number and certainly one that should drive any advisor keen on making their own numbers bigger.
Which is why my friend Dante – who is a passionate baker and runs a side business called Fire and Icing—urges advisors to “think like capitalists, set their morals aside and look at the stats.”
Generally speaking, gays have a lot of money. “They don’t have kids, so there are no obligations of that sort, and they have a lot of money to invest,” he says.
He likes to cite the examples of Michelob and Coors—the beer brewers that are not exactly what you’d think of as gay-friendly enterprises—who “saw the opportunity and started to sponsor gay events; they got in there with their banners for the purpose of making money,” he says.
Advisors also need to know that the community aspect of gay people will work in their favor—if they make a connection with just one member of the community as a client, they’re likely to get more referrals to that community.
Tomaneo’s advice is even simpler: “Just make a gay friend if you want to know what it’s about,” he says. “At the very least, you’ll have a good time.”