Steve Garibell
LGBTQ2+ Business Development Officer
TD Bank

Members of the LGBTQ2+ community have long faced economic hurdles not shared by cisgender and heterosexual people. Whether through disparities in compensation, financial security or homeownership, members of the LGBTQ2+ community have continued to be unfairly short-changed. The negative ramifications of these types of discrepancies are widespread, affecting both LGBTQ2+ individuals and society as a whole. In fact, “business hostility toward LGBT people cost countries 1% or more of their GDP,” according to a report from, citing research from M.V. Lee Badgett from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“The LGBTQ2+ community sometimes has missed certain benchmarks in their financial career, business banking and personal banking,” Steve Garibell, LGBTQ2+ business development officer at TD Bank, says. “And a lot of that has to do with an owner not necessarily [feeling] comfortable being their authentic self to the person that they’re sitting across the table from.”

To help break down those barriers for small business owners within the LGBTQ2+ community, TD Bank launched the role of LGBTQ2+ business development officer six years ago within its Toronto market. The program has since spread across the bank’s footprint in Canada, and in 2018, Garibell became the first person to take on the role within TD Bank’s United States market. Garibell specifically covers the metro New York sector, helping to bring the resources and learnings TD Bank has accumulated since creating the role to LGBTQ2+ business owners across New York City and northern New Jersey.

The role is part of TD Bank’s commercial bank division. According to Garibell, TD Bank is the only financial institution in the country to have such a role. While Garibell does not turn down other small business customers, his primary goal is to provide resources to LGBTQ2+ business owners while creating a banking relationship without hurdles related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I want to speak with anyone that has a business, LGBTQ2+ or ally, that sits in our footprint. My focus is predominantly to work with LGBTQ2+ -owned entities and to help them access the services needed to maintain and grow their business,” Garibell says.

According to Garibell, this role is unique in that it relies more on a community approach rather than marketing, with Garibell actively working with community businesses and organizations to not only find potential clients but to find solutions for them.

“I connect in the community and ingrained environment where customers or prospects can be their authentic selves and have open conversations that really help us identify the right solutions for their business to help them succeed,” Garibell says. “In our approach with the LGBTQ2+ development role, we’re really taking a community approach to bringing the right needs and the right access to products and services in the community.”

Garibell works closely with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and community development financial institutions to promote financial literacy and access to capital.

“I found that the [challenges a] LGBTQ2+ business owner faces coincide with a lot of what other small business owners face,” Garibell says. “The knowledge of the lending process, types of lending products, uses for types of lending products are real common challenges in the small business community.”

Success in New York

Garibell first joined TD Bank in a different role nine years ago after starting his financial services career in retail banking. He now has more than 15 years of experience under his belt, which has helped him develop relationships across the small business spectrum, primarily for companies with $5 million or under in annual revenue.

But beyond his professional financial experience, Garibell’s personal experience allows him to bring an important perspective to his current role. A member of the LGBTQ2+ community himself, Garibell has volunteered for the NGLCC and supported other similar causes and organizations, ultimately strengthening his connection with the businesses he works with on a daily basis.

“The BDO role of the LGBTQ2+ community was the perfect match for my passions and skills,” Garibell says. “My previous experience really helped me build a tool kit of community partners that help these business owners in all stages.”

Among some of the successes Garibell has helped oversee is TD Bank’s relationship with Lambda Vodka, a vodka distillery and distributor based in Harlem. Lambda Vodka is co-owned by Charles Hughes and Richard Solomon, who have been married since 2016. Hughes and Solomon launched the business soon after their marriage and then began working with Garibell and TD Bank. Hughes and Solomon eventually opened a lounge in New York.

“From the moment I met them, their passion was evident to how they wanted to build their brand and how they wanted to reach the LGBTQ2+ community and be that, if you want to call it, Cheers of the community for everyone to go to and feel safe,” Garibell says.

Of course, in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic slashed business for restaurants and bars, Lambda faced challenges to keep its business going successfully. Garibell worked closely with Hughes and Solomon to provide the support they needed.

“We kept in contact through the pandemic, really made sure I was sharing resources with them,” Garibell says. “So, if there [were] learnings about PPP programs that I could give them, I sent it over. If there were grant programs that I heard of, I sent them over.”

Expanding to Meet New Challenges

While the LGBTQ2+ business development officer role has already spread across TD Bank’s footprint in Canada, it has not become as prevalent in the United States. However, the bank plans to change that and use what it has learned from Garibell in New York and from his counterparts in Canada to expand the program.

“How do we take what we’ve done in this veteran New York market and bring this through our footprint?” Garibell says. “The goal is to take … this perfect purpose-driven community approach and bring that to other areas throughout our footprint.”

Bringing in business development officers specifically suited to helping LGBTQ2+ business owners will be especially critical as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, damaging the prospects for all small businesses. Garibell expects the impact of the pandemic to be felt in stages that will carry out over the next 18 months, with tighter processes around using capital a primary concern. However, Garibell also foresees some positive headwinds, especially for LGBTQ2+ entrepreneurs.

The first of these developments relates to contract financing, as the New York City Department of Small Businesses Services made New York the latest jurisdiction to approve the inclusion of NGLCC-Certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) suppliers when seeking government contractors. Such measures are also in effect in multiple cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Seattle.

“Along with these public sector opportunities, there is also a commitment among private companies to increase supplier diversity, which will help drive these spends at corporations and bring more contracting opportunities to LGBT Certified Businesses,” Garibell says. “The increased contracting opportunities, in turn, will lead to the increased need for funding for LGBTBEs.”

Phil Neuffer is managing editor of ABF Journal.