Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who need financial advice now know who they can trust with their wealth management needs – Northern Trust.

On Wednesday, the financial services firm announced it created a formal Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) and Non-Traditional Family Practice, which will provide fiduciary and wealth management services to help meet the “unique needs” of LGBT individuals and non-traditional families.

“Northern Trust recognizes the definition of family has evolved,” said John McGowan, who was named the national practice leader responsible for implementing the program in markets throughout the United States, in a statement. “We have been helping LGBT clients develop wealth management strategies for decades and have the experience to deal with unique legal, tax and wealth transfer challenges. The creation of this group will help ensure our strategic focus will be executed more broadly across our network.”

In a phone interview on Wednesday, McGowan pointed out that while other financial firms have devoted a certain amount of resources toward reaching out to the LGBT community others haven’t developed formalized practices like Northern Trust has, putting best practices in place and working with client services across the organization. “We like to think we’re taking it to a new level here,” he said.

McGowan has more than 24 years of industry experience, according to Northern Trust. Prior to his new role, he served as a senior relationship manager in Northern Trust’s Wealth Management Group, a specialized unit focused on addressing the complex financial needs of ultra high-net worth families and their family offices.

While Northern Trust has been working with LGBT clients for decades when they’ve come to the firm as beneficiaries of large family trusts, this new formalized practice will put more structure in place. The LGBT practice will use the same strategies that Northern Trust uses with all its clients, but will understand the unique challenges of same-sex and non-traditional couples. For example, it’s critical to understand the implications of the legal recognition of relationships at the state and federal level. “From the Federal and most state government’s perspectives same-sex couples are regarded as legal strangers,” McGowan said. “The family law that is in place to protect that family structure is not there and there are no legal protections.” It’s critical, he added, that important documents are in place, such as power of attorney for healthcare. “For same-sex couples they can be in a committed relationship for 20 years and if they forget to put a will in place their surviving partner will receive nothing,” McGowan said. “It sounds simple, but in many cases advisors just aren’t attuned to that.”

On the taxation side, which particularly affects Northern Trust’s high-net-worth clients, a key benefit for married couples is the unlimited marital deduction for gift and estate taxes, which allows spouses to freely transfer assets between themselves in life and after death without incurring any taxation. That’s not the case in same-sex couples, he said.

Meanwhile, Mark Braun was named the national practice liaison. His focus will be to build relationships with LGBT individuals and families, community organizations, and other advisors to ensure Northern Trust’s services and support are being delivered to the greatest benefit to clients. Braun had previously served as a private banker to successful families and individuals.

As part of its commitment to the LGBT community, Northern Trust was one of the first financial services companies to begin offering domestic partnership benefits to employees over 13 years ago.

“Our clients don’t want us to be learning how to work with their challenges along with them,” McGowan explained. “They come to us wanting us to have the expertise already.”



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