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EXCLUSIVE: Barclays Unveils Groundbreaking New Lifestyle Web Portal For HNW Clients

Wendy Spires

2 April 2012

Wealth managers are increasingly offering lifestyle services or rewards programmes in a bid to differentiate themselves in today’s highly competitive marketplace, and now Barclays is upping the stakes with a new lifestyle web portal intriguingly called Little Book of Wonders.

The "wonders" of the portal’s name refer to a range of money-can’t-buy, pre-vetted events and experiences which are exclusively available to clients of the bank’s wealth and investment division. The events and experiences are organised around 16 lifestyle themes, ranging from food and travel to arts and culture, and have been created in collaboration with high-end brand partners such as Rolls-Royce, Boucheron and Hassleblad.

The portal is also intended to function as a networking platform for clients and will additionally feature extensive editorial content written exclusively for Barclays by a team of leading contributing editor "names". This will include articles about all the exclusive events, talks and experiences on offer, as well as features related to each area of interest.


The portal will initially be rolled out to Barclays' wealth management clients in the UK and Europe, with a view to rolling out in the US and Asia-Pacific in the second half of the year and MENA soon after. This phased implementation is simply to allow the new service time to bed down and for the focus required in deploying extremely high-end events across multiple geographies, Barclays said. In the meantime the service can also be offered individually to globe-trotting clients who may be interested in opportunities in Europe from launch.

Barclays calls the new initiative a "client engagement tool" and in putting it together the firm said it went back to the drawing board to entirely rethink the traditional concierge service and try to create something unique in the marketplace.

Rather than being your standard concierge-type service which tends to be reactive, in that clients come up with an idea to be arranged on their behalf, Barclays new service offering proactively sources opportunities for clients to browse and select. As such, Little Book of Wonders is intended to be something more akin to a "curated world", David Hughes, head of affinity partnerships at Barclays, told WealthBriefing.

"We’ve created an environment where our clients can come and discover some fascinating and exclusive things to do that we have pre-arranged and curated on their behalf, rather than the traditional model where the client has to have the idea in the first place to ask their concierge service to execute," said Hughes.


The idea for the new service came from the fact that luxury brands would often approach Barclays to offer its clients the chance to attend special events, but often these opportunities were last minute or so esoteric that it was difficult to offer them to the right clients in enough time. Effectively, Little Book of Wonders allows clients to “self-select” the kinds of events they are interested in, making the process far more efficient for client and luxury brand alike.

The web portal goes live this week and clients will be introduced to it in the course of their conversations with their bankers. Reactions from staff and brand partners, meanwhile, have been “fantastic”, said Hughes. Bankers are really excited about being able to offer something unique in the marketplace, he continued, while brand partners all over the globe have given “phenomenonally encouraging responses.”

The site is very visually appealing and it is easy to find opportunities to suit any taste, via the interest area “bookcovers” like “beauty and wellbeing” as well as a comprehensive search function. Users can also search by region or date – a very useful facility for special occasions such as birthdays or Valentine’s Day.

Money-can’t-buy experiences

There is an amazing range of events and experiences on offer (over 70 at launch), most of which are free and all of which are exclusive to Barclays. Forthcoming highlights for next month include an evening at Sir Terence Conran’s apartment to hear about commissioning a dream home, a round of golf with Colin Montgomerie at Goodwood with Rolls-Royce, and an Easter egg masterclass for children being held at Claridge’s in London.

However, the personal favourite of Hughes - and one which will no doubt wow cricket fans - is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play a Twenty20 match with legendary England cricketer Freddie Flintoff. This last opportunity may put readers in mind of Société Générale Private Banking’s ongoing sponsorship of top-level golfers Angel Cabrera, Thomas Levet, Christian Cevaër and Jeev Milkha Singh, through which the firm is able to offer its clients the chance to play with golfing stars through a programme of events around the world.


The provision of truly special money-can’t-buy experience to reward “big ticket” clients is an important part of many firms’ marketing strategy, one reason for this being that the very wealthy are a segment for whom few doors are closed and as such they are unlikely to be impressed by mass market events.

While there may be a place for large (but inevitably cost-heavy) sponsorships in terms of building brand awareness, it is generally thought that smaller, bespoke opportunities are probably the better option, not least because they provide a more intimate environment for clients and bankers to deepen their relationships. Precisely-targeted events might be more labour intensive to put together but it could be argued they incur less “wastage” and are a far better way of demonstrating an understanding of the totality of clients’ lives – an empathetic, holistic approach which is rapidly becoming industry standard.

These were the type of views which emerged in the compilation of a forthcoming ClearView Financial Media research report, entitled Reaching Out To The High Net Worth: Branding And Marketing Strategy Across The Global Wealth Management Industry.

Barclays new website is also noteworthy for its high-tech approach to helping clients get the most out of the service; its back-end booking system will allow clients to check the availability of the events/experiences and book direct, which will in turn trigger an email to their banker to keep them in the loop. The initial concept behind the project was “time well spent” and so Barclays is keen to make the portal as time-efficient to use as it is enjoyable.

Invaluable information

Clearly, Barclays isn’t launching this service just out of the goodness of its heart, as providing clients with money-can’t-buy experiences is a popular method through which wealth managers attempt to build up good will and do more business with their biggest clients, most of whom are multi-banked. It also goes without saying that such offerings help firms to gather invaluable information on where their clients’ passions lie and to exceed their expectations in terms of client service.

Lifestyle information which naturally accrues to a relationship manager over time may have historically been carried “in the head” of bankers (and away with them when they changed jobs), but firms are increasingly looking to gather this data systematically to mitigate so-called “key man risk”. Otherwise, an employee’s departure could mean that incredibly valuable information as to a client’s interests is lost forever – simply because it was never formally recorded.

Jacqui Brabazon, group head, marketing and philanthropy, at Standard Chartered Private Bank, who served on the editorial panel for Reaching Out To The High Net Worth, said this on the issue:

"As an industry I don’t think that we have terribly good systems in place to capture information which enables us to make the client experience better – to the extent to which other industries use that type of technology. Other industries use technology a lot to drive their client experience. We don’t as an industry; instead we rely on the private banker."

While data capture systems may have historically been regarded with suspicion by the old guard of private banking, it seems that firms are increasingly recognising the role technology can play in delivering “the personal touch”. In this regard Barclays would certainly seem to be at the vanguard of a new wave of tech-savvy wealth managers.