By Melissa J. Anderson

Last week, Deutsche Bank hosted the first ever Out On the Street conference, an event designed to address the commercial advantage of LGBT inclusiveness for Wall Street firms.

Seth Waugh, CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas, explained that the conference held two missions. First of all, “to make sure Wall Street is an attractive and welcome place for all LGBT professionals.” And secondly, “it’s not only the right thing to do, but it is a commercial imperative.”

He explained that a broad perspective of view points enables companies to make better decisions and appeal to a broader audience of potential clients. The need for diversity of perspectives is gaining steady acceptance. This is important, Waugh said, because “Things that are nice to have but not ‘needs to have’ tend not to have a long lifespan.”

Why Diversity Makes Sense

Waugh said that the company defines an ally as someone who doesn’t discriminate against the gay community. He acknowledged that it’s a low bar – but the firm hopes that making it easy to become an ally will foster greater participation in the cause for LGBT inclusiveness.

But, he continued, all diversity – not just gender diversity or LGBT diversity – is part of a greater business strategy. Waugh said, “All types of diversity make complete economic sense and benefit our shareholders in the long term.”

He explained that as long as the firm operates as a welcoming employer, it is able to attract the best and brightest who will choose to work elsewhere if they feel they will face adversity because of who they are.

Secondly, he said, “It better reflects the diversity of our client pool.” According to Waugh, fostering diversity internally enables firms to build deeper relationships with clients and potential clients. Third, he explained, a richer mosaic of perspectives produces richer, more creative strategies.

Promoting Inclusiveness Enables Individuals to Achieve Their Full Potential

Sylvia Ann Hewlett discussed the Center for Work Life Policy’s upcoming study on the cost of the closet. While the results of the study are embargoed until this summer, Hewlett shared a few insights on the study.

First of all, she echoed her recent Harvard Business Review piece on the subject of the ambition of LGBT individuals. She said, “The level of ambition is nearly the same as straight colleagues, despite the hurdles that are ongoing.” She continued, saying that companies need to create environments where people can “elect to come out, to claim their actual identities. The impact on a career is really very negative for those who feel they can not do that.”

The speakers at the panel on “Wall Street as a Workplace of Choice” agreed. Mark Stephanz, Managing Director, Bank of America, said, “The amount of time and energy and brain function one spends on just hiding is incredible.” He went on to say that since coming out, he hasn’t had any negative experiences. But, he said, “I thought I was risking my career.”

Sonelius Kendrick-Smith, Director, Deutsche Bank, agreed. He said, “If I take a huge part of who I am, I’m not capable of [performing] 100%.” And, he said, this has an effect on the bottom line.

R. Martin Chavez, Goldman Sachs‘ first openly gay Partner, said that he personally had never had any problems at the firm. He said, “Many of us think of all the bad things that could happen to us if we come out. But we need to think of all the good things that might happen if we come out.”

“The commercial case for diversity means creating environments where everyone can bring their whole self to work,” Chavez continued. “We don’t know what we might be missing if we don’t create the environment where people could be themselves at work.”