By Oscar Lopez
LONDON, Nov 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The head of Brazil's first bank for gay and trans people said on Thursday that he aimed to tap into an overlooked market, combat prejudice and support social issues that matter to LGBT+ people.
Marcio Orlandi Jr., chief executive of Pride Bank, which launched in beta testing mode this week, said other banks were failing to cater to an important segment of the economy.
"There are so many capable people that could be making money, and making the economy greater but they're not doing it," Orlandi Jr. told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding the bank may add health insurance and travel agency services in future.
"We want to make sure that this bank is not just another bank, but a bank that really looks to its community ... Making sure that we stand and we resist is really important."
A growing number of businesses are targeting LGBT+ customers as evidence emerges that discrimination costs billions. LGBT-friendly Superbia Credit Union is set to launch in the United States next year after winning approval from Michigan state.
Brazil has made significant progress on LGBT+ rights in recent years, legalising same-sex marriage in 2013, but it remains a deeply religious country where homophobia is common and conservative groups frequently criticise gay rights.
The LGBT+ community has come under attack since the election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro last year, who has tried to pull public funding from LGBT+ films and threatened to excise mentions of homosexuality from school textbooks.
Orlandi Jr. said the new digital bank, which only exists online, was created to allow LGBT+ people to bank without fear of discrimination, in a country where they often have trouble getting jobs and face stigma in the workplace.
Pride Bank will give 5% of its income to the Instituto Pride to support charities and shelters that help vulnerable LGBT+ people, such as the elderly and those with HIV.
Pride Bank customers can receive a rainbow-branded debit card marked with their chosen names - an important plus for trans people who only won the right to change their gender on official documents without surgery last year.
Gay rights advocates have warned that Bolsonaro's homophobic comments, such as saying that Brazil must not become a "gay tourism paradise", could have a detrimental economic impact in a country that receives some 6.6 million foreign tourists a year.
In such an environment, Orlandi Jr. said the LGBT+ banking venture was more important than ever.
(Reporting by Oscar Lopez; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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