Citi sees quick results from True Name cards for trans, nonbinary consumers

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When Citi last month announced that transgender customers could use their preferred name on their credit cards, the bank was unsure of what to expect.

“We know that 1% of the population is transgender, and one of their pain points is not having the name on their card match the name they go by, and we wanted to solve that,” said Nikki Darden, director of global consumer marketing at Citi.

The response exceeded expectations, with more than 1,600 Citi customers requesting a name-change on their cards within the first few weeks of the program.

To build on that momentum, Citi is putting marketing weight behind the initiative, with a multimedia campaign and TV spots launching Thursday that will run during Transgender Awareness Week, Nov. 13-19.

Citi is the first of the largest U.S. card issuers to adopt Mastercard’s True Name concept, which rolled out last year, following BMO Harris Bank and Michigan’s Superbia Credit Union. Months of planning went into the project.

“It took a bit more effort than we initially thought, because quite a few elements were involved," Darden said. "But once the decision was made people across our organization got behind it and it’s been a big positive.”

Research suggests more than 70% of transgender and nonbinary people go by a name other than their legal name, and 68% have no documentation showing their chosen name, according to Darden.

“Being able to offer customers a piece of plastic finally reflecting their transgender identity is a big deal,” she said.

Citi’s campaign stars trans and nonbinary individuals and couples in various media and venues including outdoor displays at Citi Bike stations in New York City and at The Grove, a Los Angeles entertainment and shopping zone.

“We wanted to bring more visibility to the trans/nonbinary community, and what better way than to use out-of-home advertising so people can see positive images in these ads when they’re walking down the street,” Darden said. Only 0.3% of advertising features transgender people, according to Citi’s research.

Citi’s True Name campaign also includes a 30-second TV spot featuring the transgender actor Asha Doucet as part of a couple deciding on a name, which appears printed on a new credit card arriving in the mail. The couple hugs as the spot concludes.

“We wanted to show transgender and nonbinary individuals in uplifting situations and also to show trans love, which is something you don’t see a lot,” Darden said, noting that Citi collaborated with GLAAD to develop the campaign.

A voice-over in the TV commercial explains, “If you are transgender or nonbinary, and go by a different name, let’s update your Citi card.”

Bianca Cline, a trans cinematographer, was director of photography for the TV commercials, which the New York ad agency Publicis created.

Upgrading cards to reflect transgender names is one of several initiatives Citi has undertaken this year to help underrepresented groups.

“We’ve made some bold moves around closing the racial wealth gap, and now we’re doing this with transgender people as part of a series of solutions for communities that frankly need a little more attention,” Darden said.

So far, credit cards are the only Citi product available through True Name, but Citi is assessing where the feature will be introduced next, Darden said.

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