Monday, 10 December 2007

Private client entertaining

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Entertaining clients in the business world usually follows a simple path: champers + venue + people + repeat same every year. Clients are suitably grateful for an invite and hosts are delighted with a few red faces and slaps on the back. Business entertaining keeps the world spinning round. In the wealth management market though, you have a more challenging ultra high net worth individual to contend with. A super rich client, who has not only seen it all before but probably been there done it and got the limited edition, hand made Donatella t-shirt.

As a famous model once said “I don’t get out of bed for less than £10,000” Wealth managers are dealing with high net worth clients who don’t get out of bed for less than £10 million. Global private banking institutions have had to pull out all the stops to retain and attract clients. Events have included Credit Suisse, Singapore hiring private islands and Bollywood troupes for rich Indian high net worths. Then Credit Suisse, Switzerland holding a wide ranging programme of events that include opera, polo, Formula 1 and White Turf.

White Turf, for the uninformed is horseracing on snow. But an event like White Turf is considered to be ‘off the peg’ and more suitable for the ‘band one’ client with around 30 million + euros. When you rise to more than 100 million + euros, banks start to really concentrate. A bead of sweat might momentarily be seen on an otherwise smooth Etonian brow. One private banker commented “at this level ultra high net worths don’t really need us to provide entertainment. We have to look at ideas like a one to one meeting with an actor, sportsman or luminary of their choice. Or we might try to give them something they cannot buy, like an experience they will appreciate.”

One example of such an experience can be had with Mirabaud & Cie, a traditional family office in Geneva who regularly hold musical recital for clients. A recent evening in Gstaad included guests being chair lifted to a mountain top restaurant for dinner. Other unique events aimed at high net worths in London include one being held at London Zoo by on the 10th May. Nicknamed billionaires and bongos, the evening has a £500 ticket price which includes a Las Vegas, Bollywood show and Maybach cars chaffeuring rich-list guests to the venue. The benefit of events such as these is the chance to spend several hours with intermediaries to the super rich who are often as elusive as the high net worths themselves.

As to whether all this entertaining works, most are resolute: it does. Andrew Young a private client lawyer at Lawrence Graham in London said “after a £10,000 per person day out shooting with a super rich client he piped up ‘I like you fellows’ and promptly gave us work worth £250,000 in annual fee’s.” Claudia Rossler, head of marketing for UBS Wealth Management in the UK said: " These days it’s important to offer more than 'just entertainment.’ One of the trends we’ve seen is an interest in 'knowledge events'. Our clients want information on topics such as private equity or hedge funds. That said, UBS has a long history of partnerships and sponsorships with the London Symphony Orchestra, Tate Modern and the Sage Gateshead art centre.” Claudia says these events reflect client choices and compliment the UBS brand. As to measurements Claudia agrees “Event marketing, like all investments, needs to have clear objectives with defined success criteria” UBS assess success from client feedback and ‘commercial measures’.

But whatever banks do sometimes they cannot please a high net worth for all the tea in emerging high net worth China. One fund manager paid substantial sums for a Formula 1 racing in Monaco with five clients dropping out at short notice. A lawyer regularly has Asian clients enthusiastically agree to events but they never turn up and a Swiss banker who shops at Hermes for a presents for an elderly high net worth client on her birthday gets them sent back. He comments “One year, rather pleased with myself, I decided to buy a couture hat instead of the usual Hermes scarf. She sent it back with an uncompromising scribbled note “no thanks, wrong choice, you should have asked me.”

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