A million pounds was a lot of money once. It still is for most of us but the rise in people with millions, or even billions, in assets means banks are downgrading some accounts and creating a new layer of ultra exclusive services only available to the super rich.
Hitting the champagne when you reach £1 million can be cause for celebration but when you realise you’re only a “single digit millionaire” and don’t qualify for the top level of services it can be a little deflating.
Last year, JP Morgan raised the minimum amount of investible assets for its services from $5 million to $10 million to remain a private banking customer, pushing about 10% of its clients off into less exclusive services. If you’re one of the 10% that metaphorical slap in the face no doubt stings a lot.
Even before JP Morgan effectively demoted some of its customers, Barclays was at it this side of the pond withdrawing dedicated private bankers and offering a reduced level of service to anyone with less than £500,000 to their name. Prior to that Coutts Bank doubled its minimum amounts from £500,000 to at least £1 million.
At Weatherbys Bank you need an annual gross income of at least £300,000 or have combined assets of at least £3 million. Incomes of £100,000+ or assets of £1 million mean you only qualify for the premier banking services rather than private banking.
Goldman Sachs is up there with JP Morgan – you need $10 million to even get a look in with its private banking services.
So why has there been a shift?
The rate at which people are becoming millionaires is growing massively and private banks can no longer cope. According to Barclays, there were 690,000 millionaires in the UK in last year. In 2010, it was 508,000. That equates to one in every 67 people in the country. The UK has the fourth highest number of millionaires after the USA, China and Japan.
Much like lots of people have degrees these days, being a millionaire is no longer anything special.
As for billionaires, this year’s Sunday Times Rich List revealed there were 134 of them in the UK with a combined wealth of £658 billion.
The shift of private banking towards super rich individuals is partly a move to encourage clients to move any other assets they have to be managed by them and also allows banks to pick and choose who they deal with – shutting everyone but the super elite out from exclusive services and retaining that aura of exclusivity.
Banks are also in the business of making money and the simple fact is they make far more from their wealthiest clients. The hard truth is banks have struggled to make money in recent years and investing time and money in people with few assets and therefore, far lower returns, is less palatable than investing in those who have lots.
What do you get with private banking?
Private banking offers a much more bespoke service tailored to your personal needs. You can enjoy:
- Personalised service where you deal with the same person, much like an old-fashioned bank manager and financial adviser rolled into one
- Wealth planning, succession planning and trust services
- Investment advice and portfolio management
- Access to larger mortgages and loans
- Business lounge access at airports and concierge services
- The social cache of being a member of a private bank