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Corporate world getting ready to boycott gay hate countries

Leading professional services boss says his clients will soon refuse to operate in some markets when they abuse LGBTI rights
Executives from leading banks and financial insitutions on the Out on the Street Europe panel 2013.

Companies may soon refuse to operate in countries with homophobic laws, a managing partner at leading global professional services firm EY has said.

And Deutsche Bank has revealed they already intervene on LGBTI issues by speaking to governments behind the scenes and telling them abusing gay and trans people damages business.

Those were two revelations at Out On The Street: Europe, a summit for LGBT leaders in the financial services held in London yesterday (19 November).

Andy Baldwin, managing partner in financial services at EY (formerly Ernst & Young), was one of the guest speakers at the event hosted by his firm’s commercial rivals, KPMG.

EY has some of the world’s leading companies as its clients.

Baldwin said: ‘I think some of my clients have been quite shocked by what has happened in Russia [on gay rights].

‘We are probably not there yet but I think in some of these markets we may reach a tipping point where corporates will say we are not prepared to do business in this market.’

Jeff Davis, a managing director at Barclays Bank, revealed he was surprised by pleased his firm took a strong stance against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – dubbed the Kill the Gays Bill in Uganda.

Bank executives met with Ugandan government leaders to speak against the legislation which has now stalled again.

And Colin Grassie, the chief executive of Deutsche Bank UK, indicated that intervening in homophobic and transphobic countries is now relatively common.

He said: ‘We have talked to regulators, we have talked to politicians and we have talked to people in authority and we have said we know you have a starting point and it does not dignify you.

‘It is not consistent with global standards so you are sub-standard.

‘I think as an institution in very specific countries where it doesn’t sit with us as human beings or an organizations we have a responsibility to go to the top of the country and explain why that’s a problem and we do.’

Meanwhile Peter Sargant, a director at Standard Chartered in Hong Kong highlighted one way homophobia and transphobia can impact on business – when gay staff have to move abroad for work.

He hinted talent should come first and the place banks and financial institutions do business second.

So when an LGBTI manager is needed to lead a team in a homophobic country, he suggested they should consider moving the work rather than moving the leader.

Sargant said: ‘The debate we should be having is can we manage that role from another country and if we can’t will that LGBT manager be affected by the country’s draconian legislation.’

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