An authentic life of service to the LGBT community and beyond
In every life story, there is a defining moment, an event that forms character, shapes values and establishes the purpose by which one lives.
For RBC Wealth Management financial advisor, Neil McDevitt of Seattle, WA, that defining moment was the deadly AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.
“When I was in my early 20s, my partner of 31 years and now husband, Richard, and I were going to a funeral at least once a month. We lost so many friends – so many amazing, talented people were taken away from us,” McDevitt says. “I have to make up for what we lost.”
And that life purpose is service. For more than 20 years, McDevitt has felt a strong compulsion to donate countless hours annually to causes serving the LGBTQ community.
“Sometimes I feel like I do not do enough,” he quickly adds.
What may sometimes not feel like enough to McDevitt is actually quite a lot when you break it down.
Serving the community
One of the organizations that has benefited from McDevitt’s personal and professional attention is the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA). Through his efforts serving on the board and as a consultant – and McDevitt credits the work of other committed volunteers like him – the GSBA has grown to the largest LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce in North America.
“I thought it would be a great way to be an ‘out’ financial advisor, and be of service to LGBTQ people and businesses,” McDevitt says.
GBSA is known nationally for its effectiveness in marketing and providing business development for small business, connecting the community through business, advocating for civil rights and business, promoting LGBTQ travel and investing in the next generation of leaders. Indeed, one of the programs of the GSBA that McDevitt is most passionate about is its scholarship fund.
The scholarship fund provides financial resources and role modeling to outstanding LGBTQ and allied students, many of whom have no traditional means of support. Over time, it has given more than $3 million to eligible students and this year alone has provided $400,000 in scholarships.
McDevitt is considered a major fundraiser for the fund. It had no endowment when he became involved with it. And true to his humble nature, he gives credit to many others he has recruited to the cause over the years who also contributed to its success. Perhaps others have found inspiration in his enthusiasm for the subject, and this fact should not be overlooked.
“Some people have accused me of being Tom Sawyer, you know, getting others to do your work for you” McDevitt says with a laugh.
Louise Chernin, chief executive officer of GSBA says McDevitt’s passion, leadership abilities and commitment to equality help ensure both the chamber and scholarship fund are strong and sustainable.
“Neil cares about people and relationships,” Chernin says. “He is always ready to listen, bring people together and find ways to constructively address challenges. Neil is one of the most positive people I know and his leadership style is one that is inclusive and respectful.”
Another LGBTQ organization that benefits from a significant investment of McDevitt’s time and talent is the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). He has long been a member of its corporate advisory board and he is responsible for RBC Wealth Management’s sponsorship of this national coordinator of resources and programs to help promote pro-business and pro-LGBTQ policies.
The NGLCC is currently focused on setting LGBTQ supplier diversity certification standards and McDevitt is playing a key role in lobbying the governments of both Seattle and King County, WA to adopt procedures for doing business with of certified LGBTQ suppliers.
“Neil sees how the LGBTQ community and the business community can work together to achieve their goals – and he has advocated for their interests at the local, regional and national level for many years,” says David Moskovitz, Seattle complex director at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. “He truly cares about helping people. It shows in his service, as both financial advisor and volunteer. His example inspires me to do my best and I am honored to work with him.”
Other worthy causes that McDevitt contributes to include the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and the Houlahan Foundation, which empowers people with developmental disabilities to live fulfilled lives. He is a founding member of the foundation, because of his interest in calling attention to the needs of a group of people who have historically been overlooked in terms of inclusion and human rights.
“As a young gay man, I felt like I did not have a voice,” McDevitt says. “So I have always tried to speak up for people who are voiceless.”
McDevitt has built a successful wealth management business, in part because of his expertise in serving a broad range of clients. Because of his personal experience, he has insights into the financial concerns of the LGBTQ community, including the special needs of those affected by AIDS.
“About 10 years ago, I started having conversations with HIV-positive people who managed to survive the early epidemic and are now living longer because of medical advances,” McDevitt says. “You did not think you would live this long. Now let’s start planning for the future. This is great, something you should celebrate.”
Leading at the office
McDevitt was the first member of the RBC Wealth Management PRIDE employee resource group for LGBTQ and allied employees, when it was founded in 1990. He is currently serving his second term as co-chair.
In addition to helping employees across the country take action on LGBTQ issues locally, he is especially proud of the work PRIDE has done engaging with executive leadership to establish policies that have helped RBC Wealth Management-U.S. earn a 100 percent ranking on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index six times.
“Beyond his community service efforts, Neil is a strong role model and steering committee leader for members of our group for LGBTQ and allied employees,” says Brett Thorne, executive sponsor of PRIDE. ”His ideas, enthusiasm and genuine concern for the well-being of others not only contribute to his success as a financial advisor, they also help personify the qualities that help make PRIDE a successful organization.”
McDevitt credits the respectful, inclusive culture of RBC Wealth Management as a productive environment for his 17-year career as a financial advisor. He attributes some of his success to the encouragement he and other LGBTQ employees receive both from leaders and support staff at all levels of the company. He also says access to the expertise and insights of other experienced LGBTQ financial advisors has played a role in his ongoing development as a wealth manager.
“We’re still evolving, still growing – and I am very proud to be part of RBC,” McDevitt concludes.