‘I found my safe space’: How a job at Lloyds helped 28-year-old Aaron come out at work

Lloyds Banking Group's Aaron Miller

For Aaron Miller, getting a high-flying job in finance was “never something that was part of the plan.”

“I grew up in north London, on a small council estate with a big family”, the 28-year-old business support manager tells PinkNews, as he reflects on his journey from a closeted teenager struggling to find his place in the world to a thriving out professional at Lloyds Banking Group. “I had no links to finance, none of my family worked in finance.”

A self-described “theatre kid”, Aaron admits to feeling like a “outsider” during his childhood and adolescence. “You never quite could verbalise it but you know you were different compared to some of the other [kids], especially boys, that you would hang out with,” he recalls.

“I was quite scared, [I] didn’t really grow up with anyone visibly gay in my life that I was particularly close with. You know, you had the internet and you had media, but it always felt quite distant and irrelevant to my day-to-day life.”

It wasn’t until he was 19 – around the time he started an apprenticeship in investment banking – that Aaron felt able to come out to his mum, followed shortly afterwards by the rest of his siblings and family. With supportive relatives and a burgeoning career, it might be easy to assume that the rest would fall straight into place, but it would take more than half a decade before Aaron felt comfortable being out at work – something he puts down to a fearing of ‘sticking out’ in environments where blending in seemed to be encouraged.

“The places I used to work, unlike Lloyds, were very, “You do your job and you get out”, Aaron recalls. “You don’t really talk about your personal background, you don’t talk about your feelings, you don’t talk about your identity. It’s very just, “Get on with your job and move on with your life”.”

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He adds: “There really wasn’t any way in, or any societies or any groups which almost gave me that ‘permission’… to myself to say, “There’s a group of people I can speak to”.”

Aaron joined the team at Lloyds Banking Group around two years ago, and says the difference in company culture was obvious from the outset, finally giving him the confidence to fully embrace and celebrate every facet of his black and gay identity around colleagues.

Aaron Miller in a multicoloured vest and cap
Lloyds Banking Group is the first workplace where Aaron has felt comfortable being out. (Aaron Miller)

“One of the first days I came in, managers made it very clear, “Hey we have all these societies and they’re a big thing, we’re trying to get all of our colleagues involved”. And it was like, “Oh, people actually care about you as an individual, rather than just you as a worker [and] what work you can produce”. [It’s] “What are you actually bringing to the table to make the lives of other colleagues more comfortable?”

“I found my safe space, I guess.”

Rainbow, Lloyds Banking Group’s LGBTQ+ colleague network, is committed to connecting, developing and supporting queer staff across the company, as well as using their lived experience and skills to inform the bank’s customer-facing inclusion work. With more than 5,000 members and supporters, it’s one of the largest networks of its kind in the UK.  

“It’s a space where I’ve got to know some colleagues really well, but then also I’ve used [our] shared background and shared understanding to help other colleagues feel comfortable, whether they’re LGBT+ or not,” Aaron enthuses.

“I always say to myself, “I could really have done with a network like this when I first started working”. I think I would’ve been a lot more comfortable being who I am a lot earlier on.”

He adds: “You can absolutely be gay and work in banking.”

Lloyds’ Rainbow network isn’t just having a transformative impact on staff internally, however: A key part of the bank’s ethos is allow its own diversity to be reflected in its services, which has included introducing pronoun badges for individuals working in branch networks and becoming the first UK-owned company to extend their Private Medical Benefit to include gender affirming treatment.

With a long-term co-headline sponsorship of the PinkNews Awards, and volunteering and fundraising efforts supporting charities including Mermaids, MindOut, Albert Kennedy Trust, Opening Doors London and Waverley Care, the real-world impact is tangible.

Aaron Miller at UK Black Pride
Aaron Miller is proud to be a part of the Lloyds Banking Group Rainbow network. (Aaron Miller)

“The whole point is we’re trying to make this the best place to work for all of our colleagues, and also for the customers we serve as well”, declares Aaron. “Because there will be customers who look [and] sound similar to me or identify similar to me as well, and we need to make sure their needs are being attended to.”

He adds: “Because ultimately, we’re not really a bank without our community.”

Having found his own professional tribe at Lloyds, Aaron stresses the importance of showing up for others who may still be fighting their own battles in the workplace and beyond as an ally – particularly for the transgender and non-binary community, whose lives continue to disproportionately dominate the media cycle.

Now a proud leader on equality, diversity and inclusion, Aaron points highlights a series of get-to-know sessions with trans colleagues as one of his proudest achievements with Lloyds’ Rainbow network.

“It was literally just a conversation with them about their career, their journey, what they do, their history and stuff like that”, he explains. “It was very much… “This is me as an individual, this is my perspective, this is how I feel about certain things”, and [you can] actually hear from a trans person rather than someone who’s seeking to marginalise them, and you can form your opinion off that.”

As someone who spent the first years of their career not feeling empowered to talk about who they really were at work, Aaron knows first-hand how important it is for allies to actively create space for colleagues to talk about their lived experiences.

“I can talk about being gay, I can talk about being black… but making sure you are an ally to especially a very marginalised group, I think it helps with a lot of mental health, it helps with the daily struggles”, he comments.

“If you feel comfortable, speak up about stuff – you’d be surprised who listens. The concept of allyship means it’s a little bit easier for all of us to carry that burden.”

“Find your people”, he concludes, “and everything will be fine.”