• Julien

Deon Pillay, South African Head of Marketing Operations & Co-Chair at InterInvest

Updated: Mar 25

Deon is the Head of Marketing Operations, Legal and General Investment Management in London and also the Chair of the firm’s L&GBT+Allies network. Outside of the office, he is the Co-chair of InterInvest, a network of investment professionals, that drives LGBT+ equality across the investment management industry.


"Being outed led to my career suddenly stagnating, and the micro aggression/ hurtful remarks didn’t help either.




When did you have that “a-ha” moment and realise you were different?


This is a very interesting question, I guess my cousins realised before I did, I remember at a very early age being told that I was a special boy. Now looking back I think in my teens I knew I was attracted to guys but repressed that feeling as it was not a cultural norm.


How would you describe your experience of coming out?


I guess I never had the opportunity to come out in the traditional sense, sadly that right was taken away from me, being outed at work, brought with it a lot of emotion, bullying, mental anguish and career challenges. However, 3 years later I took up the opportunity to share my story, in the hope that I could make a difference for others. I then told my sisters, but for my siblings, sadly I never had the courage to tell my dad who passed last year.

I have since been open about my sexuality and I am no longer afraid to say that I am a proud gay man.


How did your childhood and family background impact both the timing and the way you came out?


I always knew that I was loved by my family but I did not want to cause them any pain or embarrassment! You see when you are born into an Indian family, society dictates the norms, and your community dictates the standards. The expectation is that you study hard, get good grades, go to university, become a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, an accountant, get married and start a family. Often, it’s not about what your family thinks, but how the community judges you that stops you from coming out, opting to deny your true self.


The only way out for me, was to leave South Africa, my life and my identity behind.


What would your advice to anyone trying to come out?


The most important thing is that you come out when you feel comfortable about it and for each us this is a unique journey and experience. I chose to do it when I felt comfortable with the person I had become, when I was financially stable and independent.


Make sure you have a strong support structure around you. If you are still dependent on your family, make sure you have a safe place to go should your family not be accepting of your sexuality and or gender preferences. Whilst coming out might be the biggest thing for you, not everyone you share it with will see it as a big deal, that’s their way of saying nothing changed between you.


What was the most difficult experience you faced in your life because of your sexual orientation / gender identity? How did you handle it?


Being outed led to my career suddenly stagnating, and the micro aggression/ hurtful remarks didn’t help either.


As a resilient gay man, I was not going to allow this to happen. So I worked even harder and proactively engaged with senior leaders to raise my concerns, I was no longer going to be undervalued or allow others to take the credit for my work !


These constructive discussions led to new opportunities, that have seen me build an amazing career. At Legal and General I finally feel valued, the development opportunities have been endless, and I am excited about the future.


Who is the most important role model in your life and why?


When it comes to role models, there are so many great people, each bringing something unique, but the person that has had the most profound impact is my mum.


She has instilled in me the core values, of love, compassion and kindness. She is a remarkable woman who sacrificed so much, just to ensure that we were clothed, educated and fed.


Her spirit of generosity has certainly rubbed off on me! As she often reminds me, to think less about material things and to focus on the difference and impact I can make on somebody else’s life.


Now broadening our horizon, describe your experience being a member of the LGBTQ community at work? In your industry?


I am a passionate supporter of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Asset management and Savings industry.


I am the co-chair of Legal and Generals LGBT network. The industry was certainly not the most inclusive 5 years ago and this is one of the core reasons I cofounded InterInvest, the investment management industry LGBT network, with Cathy to help drive inclusion.


We must acknowledge that we are making positive strides in that space, but equally there is so much more that needs to be done around education, retention and active allyship.


Now more than ever, we need visible real models, people openly sharing their stories to help others to surface the issues the LGBTQ+ community face. It’s easy to forget that whilst lots has been achieved, globally people are being persecuted, tortured and murdered because of their sexuality and or gender preferences. We must not take for granted the rights we now get to enjoy!


Finally and on a less serious note, what stereotype do you love the most about the LGBTQ community?


That all gay men are camp or feminine.


Being outed at work is unfortunately not uncommon. Have you ever experienced this or witness it? How did you handle the situation? Feel free to share your experience in the comment box.

More about Deon


Deon is the Head of Marketing Operations, Legal and General Investment Management in London and also the Chair of the firm’s L&GBT+Allies network. Outside of the office, he is the Co-chair of InterInvest, a network of investment professionals, that drives LGBT+ equality across the investment management industry.


Since arriving in London from his home town in South Africa, Deon started his career in financial services at a private wealth management company in client services before joining LGIM in 2010. Deon is passionate about people, a mentor to others, a life coach and an NLP practitioner who is passionate about personal development.


Deon has several notable achievements for his contributions to diversity and inclusion. He is a keynote speaker, sharing his personal experiences to surface LGBT+ issues, a panellist championing diversity and inclusion, committee member of the Diversity Project’s LGBT+ stream and a supporter of Queer Britain. In 2019, Deon was recognised as an LGBT+ Future Leader in the OUTstanding list and also featured in Empower’s Top 50 Ethnic Minority Future Leaders list. He has also been a supporter of LGBT Great since inception and was the recipient of the inaugural role models award.


Being a passionate believer in equality, diversity and inclusion, Deon believes strongly in the power of visible role models and allies and has encouraged others to feature in LGBT Great’s Project 1000. Overall, Deon believes that we all have a key role to play in driving this change and through fostering a culture of inclusion and diversity we can make a difference.

Social Media


Instagram: @deon_theindependentfoodie


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