Who is your favorite concierge? Some would say it’s Jeeves the valet in P. G. Wodehouse’s “My Man Jeeves.” Others might think of Carson the butler in “Downton Abbey.” You might recall Raymond Reddington being described as “the concierge of crime” in the NBC TV series, “The Blacklist.” Having a concierge or access to concierge services is a good thing.
What is a concierge? They are often associated with luxury hotels, making restaurant reservations or securing theater reservations for guests. The simplest definition is someone who knows how to get things done, so you don’t have to spend time reinventing the wheel. Concierge is an elegant word, yet the function can also be described as “I know a guy who knows a guy…”
The HNW and UHNW are no strangers to concierge services. You’ve heard the expression “I’ll have my people talk with your people…” What does the term “concierge services” mean in the financial services world? Here are different levels and what they may entail:
Level 1 concierge services
Let us start with the assumption that a concierge is a time saver and a problem solver. They know how to get things done. Your client has needs beyond investing in the stock market. They also borrow money and buy insurance. They put money in bank accounts for short periods of time. A financial advisor might consider these “seeking greater share of wallet” services to be concierge services. For example:
Lending. Your firm provides mortgage financing through the lending arm of an affiliated bank.
Insurance. Your firm has licensed you to sell life insurance and annuities. The firm might own an insurance brokerage firm or make referrals for homeowner and auto insurance.
Banking. Your firm offers money market funds and certificates of deposit. These are primarily short-term vehicles, although CDs can be laddered.
Budgeting. Although clients often discuss their spending priorities with their financial planners, helping them develop their budgets and minimize their borrowing costs goes a step farther.
These activities sound very familiar. If you do an internet search for concierge services offered by financial advisors, these offerings often show up on their individual websites.
Level 2 concierge services
The next tier of services takes convenience and time-saving a step deeper. These services might be provided in house, but it is more likely there is a referral network, often described as trusted providers, in place. When the client has a need, they are either directed to a service provider or given a choice among several.
Accounting services. This is an obvious match. You’ve heard the expression, “More money equals more problems.” If a client has lots of investments, their taxes will likely be more complicated and they’ll seek to minimize their tax bill. Enter the accountant.
Selling their business. This is often the gateway bringing banking clients through the mahogany-paneled door of the private bank. The majority of a client’s wealth is often tied up in the business. The client needs help monetizing their asset.
Real estate professionals. Clients often own multiple homes. They have rental property too. This requires attention and finding the occasional tenant. One of the concierge services is making the right connections in this area.
Pet sitters. The wealthy travel a lot, but their pets are often unwelcome or unable to make the long journey. (Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 has an onboard kennel on transatlantic crossings.) If clients need pet sitters, your firm can provide some names.
Travel agents. These days, even wealthy clients often make their own vacation arrangements after scouring the internet for good deals. But certain holidays, such as safaris and family-reunion vacations, are better booked through a specialist agency with firsthand experience. An advisor can recommend some names.
Event planners. You have seen those houses with a kitchen that is never used and a smaller prep kitchen nearby. Many HNW individuals entertain a lot. They need caterers and firms to decorate and run the events. Advisors can provide these referrals.
Negotiating executive compensation. This is another referral service I heard about when a financial planner saw a need among their clientele and sought help. The senior executive might need an independent expert to advise them. The planner could provide referrals.
Lawyers. The wealthy client might have a lawyer, but there are many branches of the law. The person good in contract law might not be the right person to call if their child is arrested for DUI.
Estate-sale services. The wealthy often have multiple homes that they might sell. They’re also likely to have older relatives who pass away. Their relative’s house needs to be emptied, but they have no idea what has value and what does not. There are specialists in this area. They determine what goes to auction, what goes into the estate sale, what goes to the thrift shop and what goes into the trash. This is another area where it’s helpful to provide referrals.
Housesitting and home-maintenance services. Sometimes the wealthy need someone to look after each of their houses when they aren’t in use. This person sees the refrigerator is stocked with fresh milk and eggs before they arrive. They collect the junk mail. Other times, your clients seek services for their primary residence. This might be as simple as housecleaning or lawn maintenance. They may need help with more complex issues like landscape design. Some firms offer concierge service to connect their clients with the right service providers.
Level 3 concierge services
Now we get to the very personalized services. These are the ones people don’t think about too often, yet they really make life easier.
Transfer paperwork. This is listed under Level 3, but it’s a basic service. It’s in this category because it is a personalized service. The client leaves their former financial advisor and wants to avoid awkward phone calls. The new firm handles everything.
Buying physical gold and silver. Your client might want to give a family member a 10-ounce silver ingot as a paperweight. What a great holiday present! It should not be difficult for a financial advisor to make this happen.
Concierge medicine. The USA Network TV series “Royal Pains” introduced us to the concept of concierge medicine and doctors on call. This service actually exists. At least one financial planning practice was considering offering it to clients. Our local hospital offers “enhanced primary care” at $125 a month or $1,500 a year per person. Other resources charge $1,500 to $3,000 annually.
Auto leasing. This would be an analytical service, looking at the client’s specific needs, then comparing lease plans from different car dealerships and recommending the best fits.
Charitable giving due diligence. The wealthy are often generous, but as they get older they’re more likely to become victims of scams. The advisor can provide a service to research the legitimacy of a charity or put together a charitable giving plan. They can also help set up a foundation or donor-advised fund.
Going above and beyond. This fits into the “I know a guy who knows a guy…” situation. For example, a friend told me a client’s child was kidnapped overseas. Ransom was demanded, which involved logistics concerning delivery and international legal issues. I didn’t know anyone, but “I knew a guy…” That guy “knew another guy…” and eventually the advisor was put in touch with a private-security firm..
The role of concierge is sometimes to anticipate needs (Jeeves) but more often to be the person who listens to the request and says, “I will take care of it.” (Carson). Bear in mind, all these services come at a cost (Reddington). Peace of mind has its price.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” is available on Amazon.