Strategy

Concierge Services Increase “After Dinner Advocacy" Amongst Wealth Management Clients

Emma Rees, 14 May 2007

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In the past decade there has been an explosion of concierge services set up to cater for increasingly time-poor individuals.

In the past decade there has been an explosion of concierge services set up to cater for increasingly time-poor individuals. Whilst jokes have long abounded about private bankers dog-walking and obtaining tickets for Wimbledon, “lifestyle management” services are increasingly being used by wealth management firms to enhance their offering to clients.

Alison Langton, head of product marketing for Coutts, which offers a concierge service as part of their Coutts World premier charge card, says:

“Concierge services are about helping clients to enjoy and enrich their lives. Our clients are extremely busy people and like to make one call to a concierge service that has expertise in many different areas and can carry out a variety of functions for them.”

Ian Ewart, marketing director for Barclays Wealth says that referrals and networking have always been an important part of private banking services.

“You might ask your private banker to recommend a finishing school for your daughter, for example, or recommend a good Harley Street surgeon, all done with the utmost discretion of course,” he told WealthBriefing.

“Concierge services are a natural extension of that. Although private banking is becoming democratised, the needs of the clientele are much the same. They want to access services that can make their lives easier hence the advent of concierge services such as Ten and Quintessentially.”

Stuart Butler, corporate development director of Ten, says:

“We work a number of leading private banks including Barclays Wealth and Coutts. We provide their clients with assistance in anything from getting a table at the finest restaurants, buying a birthday gift for a loved one to finding a chimney sweep in Florence.”

Mr Butler says that counter intuitively, the richest private banking clients are often the most discreet.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that we only book luxury whereas last month we booked as many EasyJets as we did private jets. The main thing we give clients back is time and you never have to tell us anything twice. Successful people know how much their time is worth in a business capacity and time with family and friends is even more precious.”

American Express’s Black Centurion card is available by invitation only, has an annual fee in the UK of £650 ($1,300) and has no pre-set spending limit. Fashioned from Titanium in Europe, the concierge service attached to the Centurion card provides automatic upgrades on the world’s leading airlines and hotels, access to private clubs, priority tee off times at the most desirable golf courses in the world, pit passes to the Brazilian Grand Prix - the list goes on. Cardmembers can also be reminded of important dates and gain assistance with sourcing gifts from anywhere in the world.

As clients put more and more premium on discovering and enjoying things money can’t buy, private banks will invest more in this way. According to Frank Rejwan, managing director of global private members club and 24 hour concierge service Quintessentially, private banks use concierge services for a variety of reasons.

“Private banks may buy memberships for VIP clients as a reward or because they frequently get unusual requests from them. Some banks prefer to retain the direct relationship with the client. A director at a leading wealth management firm once asked us to source a Patek Philippe watch for a client when there was an 18 month waiting list. Through our network of contacts, we managed to source the watch in just six weeks – you can imagine how impressed the client was,” he said.

With 500 staff in 28 offices across the globe, Quintessentially prides itself on accessing the inaccessible and current popular requests from members include sourcing Bugatti Veyron cars at £810,000 ($1,616,000), Roland Mouret’s Titanium dress and the ever elusive Hermes Birkin bag. It arranged for one member to go Heli-skiing in the Rockies, another member rented Sir Richard Branson's private island, Necker, for 28 friends and as recently as last week arranged a trip to the North Pole for members with a top explorer as a guide.

“There is a new meaning of luxury. It is not simply about conspicuous consumption but discernment, good taste, quality. We steer people towards the best, not necessarily the most expensive,” Mr Rejwan says.

Valerie Castle, chief executive officer of US lifestyle concierge Conciant, believes that far from being over the top, private concierge service for wealthy customers is the latest strategy employed by wealth management firms to attract the wealthiest customers and ensure they have an edge over the competition.

She said: “Banks may or may not want to serve high tea in the lobby, but one thing is certain; banking services had become too generic and a one size fits all approach just doesn’t work. Selling had replaced service in the banking industry, but concierge services can reanimate customer service, distinguish the institution from the rest of the herd and strengthen brand influence by accommodating and appealing to the wealthiest customers. The industry discards an opportunity when it ignores the richest clients. This demographic is at least as vital to forward looking asset based institutions as volume.

“Providing a higher level of service for wealthy customers is a prudent business objective. It won’t be a quick fix for the billions siphoned away from banks by family offices, but it will set the institution apart, and begin to bring customers back.”

With increasing numbers of firms focusing on wealth management and private banking, concierge type services provide a point of differentiation. Mr Butler says that what his service provides to private banks is “after dinner advocacy”.

“If we can find the perfect childrens’ entertainer for a birthday party or the much wanted present that has sold out in Hamleys, it creates customer satisfaction and advocacy for the bank. Customers who engage with concierge score the highest amongst customer satisfaction and in return place a higher share of their investments with the bank.”

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