Case study | Mastercard: True Name
Financial services company launches card to ease pain point in the LGBTQIA+ community
This article was originally published in Contagious I/O on 7 July 2020
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For many LGBTQIA+ people, the name on their bank cards does not reflect their true identity, which can be a source of humiliation, discrimination or even danger. Last year Mastercard, in line with its inclusivity initiative #AcceptanceMatters, launched True Name, a feature that allows for chosen names to appear on the front of cards.
True Name was announced during Pride month in 2019, with a video featuring real people describing their negative experiences of debit or credit cards that misrepresent their true identities. According to the brand, some 32% of people who have shown IDs with a name or gender that did not match their presentation reported being harassed, denied services and/or attacked.
The product was rolled out in December that year, and a new spot by McCann New York ran during US TV network ABC’s Pride coverage last month. In the ad, directed by Bryan Buckley of production company Hungry Man, trans and non-binary actors explain what True Name will mean for users.
Mastercard has also urged other companies to adopt True Name, saying in a press release: ‘We strive to cultivate a culture of inclusion that extends both internally and externally. We are continuing to call on the industry to help us ensure that each and every person’s financial products can reflect their true identity.’
So far, True Name has been implemented by Chicago-based bank BMO Harris, for personal ATM and debit cards, and LGBT-oriented financial institution Superbia Credit Union, across its Mastercard portfolio.
The real deal / World Pride has a significant number of corporate sponsors that make donations to the cause and use their platforms to raise awareness, but it’s easy to strike the wrong tone, fall foul of rainbow capitalism or come under fire for inauthenticity. As Jeff Ingold, head of media engagement at LGBT+ rights group Stonewall UK, told Reuters last year, ‘It’s important that organisations’ support goes deeper than visibility and shows a real commitment to the LGBT community.’ Stonewall and its US counterpart Human Rights Campaign ‘want companies that slap the rainbow logo on their products to commit to greater LGBT+ rights in the workplace if they are to cash in on [Pride]’, reports Reuters.
Thankfully, Mastercard didn’t just release a rainbow-coloured debit card. Instead it found a way to enter the conversation meaningfully and offer a solution to an LGBT+ pain point that it was uniquely positioned to provide. Furthermore, Mastercard has consistently proven itself to be a corporate ally of the cause; last year, it honoured Pride month with World Pride with a street sign installation in New York City ('Acceptance Street'), and it has an ongoing partnership with LGBT+ media monitoring organisation GLAAD.
In short, if there’s a way for a financial services company to authentically show support for Pride, this is it: Mastercard’s True Name feature shows us that identifying the ways in which your brand is uniquely able to impact a community or a cause should always be the first line of action when it comes to occasions like Pride.
Leading by example / Inevitably, due to precautions around fraud, there is a great deal of bureaucracy involved when it comes to changing the name on your bank card. True Name not only removes some of the admin and costs from the process, it provides a pathway for people to do so without having to explain or justify their decision.
BMO Harris customers, for example, can request a name change in-store or over the phone; the legal name remains on the account but the card name does not need to be the same. Additionally, people can request True Name cards without identifying as transgender, gender non-conforming or non-binary, and new customers will be asked what name should appear on their card before it is printed.
By making its product available to other banks, Mastercard encourages its industry to catch up, either by adopting True Name or updating their own policies on card name changes. And since the LGBT+ community accounts for an estimated $3.7 trillion in spending power, failing to cater to this group would simply be bad for business. Companies that support LGBT+ rights may also attract more customers from outside the community; according to a 2014 Google Consumer Survey, more than 45% of all consumers under the age of 34 say they’re more likely to do repeat business with an LGBT-friendly company.
By waiting until Pride month (June) to promote an initiative announced last year, Mastercard left enough time for True Name to gain interest and attract partners, demonstrating its credibility and signalling to banks and financial services companies that this is a viable and necessary feature of banking in the future.