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Need help booking a vacation? Ask your banker

12 December 2016 by National Bank
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Private banks are pulling out all the stops for wealthy clients with high-end concierge services – organizing travel, procuring hard-to-get restaurant reservations, even providing shopping advice.

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As a private banker, Mario Caron won’t wash your car, but he certainly can help you find the right place to buy one.

“One of our clients wanted to purchase a new car but didn’t have the time or the desire to go through the process of shopping, negotiating and so on,” says Mr. Caron, associate vice-president at National Bank’s Private Banking 1859.

“We are fortunate to have a unique arrangement with a dealer, who is able to provide a valet service [for car purchasers] that facilitates the process from A to Z for our clients.”

Luxury, small care and red carpet service

Welcome to the luxurious – and competitive – world of private banking, featuring concierge-type services that go the extra mile for high-net-worth and ultra high-net-worth (HNW) clients.

While you might not necessarily associate the word “banker” with “red carpet service,” “gift ideas” or “dinner for two,” that’s exactly what you can expect when it comes to private banking.

“Private banking means personalized services tailored specifically for your personal needs,” explains Mr. Caron.

At National Bank’s Private Banking 1859, concierge services can include a wide array of tasks, including booking tickets to exclusive shows and socialevents, making restaurant reservations at places with months-long waiting lists, organizing travel and premium out-of-country medical coverage and providing shopping and gift advice. These kinds of services are outsourced by the bank to top-notch organizations that specialize in the required tasks.

A privileged relationship for more than 100 years

Private banking perks have a longer history than you might imagine. At Mr. Caron’s financial institution, the “1859” in the name refers to the year when National Bank’s original incarnation, Banque Nationale, was founded in Quebec City. That year, seven business people petitioned the pre-Confederation Province of Canada to incorporate a new private bank that would suit their particular needs.

In those days, those needs would likely have included services more suited to an age when communication was by mail or face-to-face (aside from the telegraph). Bankers could help with introductions and reference letters to prospective international financiers, or provide credit terms to help build 19th century industries and manage fortunes of the Industrial Revolution.

Today, private banking can concern all aspects of an individual’s financial life, says Toronto tax lawyer Jennifer Leve of law firm Morris Kepes & Winters LLP.

Bankers: from accountants to tax professionnals

“Most of the bankers who meet with private clients actually have backgrounds as accountants or tax lawyers. They offer estate planning or will planning services,” says Ms. Leves.

If they don’t offer these services internally, private bankers can help HNW clients find additional tax lawyers and experts to work on the clients’ plans because the fortunes involved can be complicated and require top-level care.

National Bank’s Private Banking 1859 offers different levels of service depending on a client’s assets under management or total net worth, says Mr. Caron.

Whilehe acknowledges that many HNW clients are sophisticated investors who understand the markets and tax system and conceivably could manage their own finances well, “the critical advantage is the time that our clients save, which allows them to focus on other important matters in their lives.”

The concierge services offered by private banks are becoming a more important part of what is an increasingly competitive market for financial institutions trying to attract HNW and ultra-HNW clients.

“We try to go above and beyond the expectations of our clients in order solidify our relationships with them,” says Mr. Caron.

The real value goes beyond special treatment, he adds. “Private banking means accessibility 24/7 to someone who knows you and the particularity of your file.”

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