Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Private Banks For Name Droppers

Exclusivity. Social status. Along with quality and "overall client experience," those are the criteria Luxury Institute uses to rank the year's top private bank brands. This year's winner, determined by a survey of investors with at least $5 million: Brown Brothers Harriman, followed by Boston Private Bank. Neuberger Berman Private Asset Management and Bessemer Trust.

A year ago different names possessed the snob appeal: Atlantic Trust, Glen Mede Trust and Rockefeller Wealth Management.

(When I was very young, my father used to stop by the Rockefeller office to drop off a bookbinding job or pick up a check. The notion that a family had an office impressed me immensely. In those days the place must have been truly exclusive  – you probably had to marry into it.)

These days, the exclusivity of Rockefeller, Bessemer and other former family offices resides in the eye of the  beholder. Marketingwise, a little snob appeal probably can't hurt. Or could perceived exclusivity impede growth?

Despite their prestige, fiduciary-style wealth managers aren't exactly cornering the high-net-worth market."Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo are the top three primary wealth managers to the wealthy," Luxury Institute noted last year. More than one third of the multimillionaires surveyed said a full-service broker was their primary adviser.

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