Walter Schubert is a businessman. He's the chief executive of his own company and today is launching a new Web-based company with the ambitious goal of creating a clearinghouse where gays and lesbians can go to take care of all their financial needs, from banking to mortgages.
Schubert, chief executive of Schubert Group International Ltd., wants to make money with the new company, dubbed the Gay Financial Network (GFN). While estimates about the percentage of the population that is gay vary from about 3 percent to 10 percent, Schubert says even if the numbers are lower, the potential is huge.
Five percent of the United States' population would be 13.5 million people. Many estimate that the percentage of the online community made up of gays is higher than even 10 percent. The Internet, in fact, has become a refuge for many gays and lesbians because it allows people to communicate with each other and find information and resources without facing the threat of violence or scorn.
With numbers like that on his side, Schubert stands to make some money from the GFN venture. But the 40-year-old third-generation member of the New York Stock Exchange says his ambitions stretch much farther.
"I found here on Wall Street that it doesn't matter who you are or what you do," he said. "But what's important is your money. I know it sounds crass, but people's perceptions change when it affects their wallets."
The plan is to assemble a resource where people can access any number of financial services, including banking, mortgage lending, real estate purchasing, financial planning, online trading, and shareholder initiative education, Schubert said.
He added that he will be announcing partnerships shortly but has none to announce publicly yet.
Although all the services exist already on the Web, Schubert said members of the online gay community want a specialized service for various reasons. Some might simply want to go to a place where they know they will be supporting their own community. Others could seek refuge there after being shunned from other institutions, such as lending companies that don't recognize relationships between people of the same sex.
"What has to be understood is that gay and lesbian Americans are culturally different, that our life's journeys are culturally different," he said.
Schubert, himself, knows whence he speaks. After years of keeping quiet about his personal life when on the trading floor, he decided to come out as a gay man in 1994, three years before coming out was put under the national spotlight when actress Ellen DeGeneres announced she was gay.
There were no other openly gay traders. There still aren't any, Schubert said. At the time, he felt like he was risking everything--his job, his career, his life. But he felt he had to do it.
Now he has built on the personal strength he has acquired and is helping others. "In the United States there's still 39 states where you can be fired [for being gay] and have no recourse. Gays and lesbians are reminded of homophobia every time they go in to get a mortgage or a loan if they're a couple. The Internet could provide a very comfortable and nondiscriminatory environment for gays and lesbians to do financial work--to get a mortgage, to buy and sell stocks."