Features

Posh, educated and energetic: meet the servants of the super-rich

London’s greatest growth industry is catering to foreign plutocrats — and someone sent us its trade directory

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

‘Let me tell you about the very rich,’ said F. Scott Fitzgerald. ‘They are different from you and me.’ Indeed they are. They can afford to live in London.

Just how different became clear when The Spear’s 500 — ‘the essential guide to the top private client advisers’ — landed at the office. (We assume Spear’s sent it by mistake. We write for love here at The Spectator, and would be insulted if the editor offered us anything so vulgar as money.)

Still I was glad to read it. Spear’s paints the best portrait I have seen of a world beyond our means and comprehension. Do you have a starstruck child you wish to impress? One Lady Cosima Somerset of Concierge London boasts how she arranged a ‘chance’ encounter between a famous actress and a client to ‘wow’ his 12-year-old daughter. Or maybe you want a party that would make Fitzgerald’s Gatsby gasp. Dora Lowenstein Associates describes how they threw a bash for a client which was so star-studded that ‘Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles were little more than faces in the crowd’.

The editor, William Cash, son of Bill, does not quite say so, but the guide is aimed at helping the world’s super-rich find a home among us. It tells them that everything their money can buy is here waiting for them.

There are lists of private bankers, investment managers and tax lawyers, to manage their money; family lawyers, who can draw up pre-nups and fight staggeringly expensive divorce cases when the loves of their lives turn out to be gold-digging hussies; immigration lawyers, who can get them residence in Britain while sparing them the need to pay British taxes; libel lawyers who have rebranded themselves as ‘reputation managers’, who will sue those who fail to show them the required respect; and security specialists who can help them ward off fears of polonium-210 in the granola.

Spear’s has equine advisers, interior designers, yacht and classic car specialists, and wine and art connoisseurs. However much these sound like the help you yearn to be able to hire, much of their advice is miserablist. Fine wines, Spear’s tells us, are ‘especially tax-efficient investments as they are regarded as deteriorating assets by HMRC’. How joyless and dispiriting. What is the point of being rich if you look at a case of Château Pétrus and see only an investment?

I was as dispirited to discover that the only members of the Spear’s 500 I knew or was ever likely to know were lawyers who had tried to sue me for writing about their clients. I will never meet the rest. Nor in all likelihood will you.


It costs a lot to be rich in 2015. To announce you are merely a HNWI (high net worth individual) is to admit to shabby gentility. The men and women who advertise themselves and their services in Spear’s are interested in UHNWIs (ultra high net worth individuals) with assets of £20 million or more. Cash tells us the ‘cautionary tale’ of a friend whose family had banked with Coutts for generations. One morning a letter arrived saying that the minimum level for a Coutts account was now £1 million and she would be barred if she could not increase her balance.

The old world of old families treating their private banker as a friend and confidant is gone. Today it does not matter where your parents and grandparents banked. If you ain’t got the brass, you don’t get the class.

A few figures give you a small idea of the large sums you need to keep up. London has the greatest number of UNWHIs in the world. Luxury property here is the third most expensive in the world, according to Knight Frank. Only Monaco and Hong Kong, where a shortage of building land creates artificial house price inflation, surpass it.

A vast service industry serves the super-rich’s needs. London wealth management employs 23,000 people and contributes £3.2 billion to GDP. St James’s, Mayfair and Canary Wharf have overtaken Zurich and made London the wealth management capital of the world.

So great is the number of oligarchs wishing to come here that the Indian government tried to restrict the amount of money its rich could take out of the country. Camilla Dell, a property consultant, notes that ‘prospective Indian clients wanting to buy something in London’ put their deals on hold. But, she reassures us, wealthy Indians soon ‘found ways’ of getting round the restrictions.

At first glance, the men and women who greet them don’t look like servants. They parade their degrees from Oxford, Harvard Business School and Insead, and emphasise their virility. Charlie Hoffman of HSBC Private Bank tells us that he unwinds by skydiving. ‘It’s like synchronised swimming at 150mph — it actually brings the heart rate down.’ Spear’s describes Kirstin Boldarin, a wealth manager from Stonehage, as an ‘athletic South African’ who enjoys ‘a life balance of Italian cooking offset by long-distance running’ — a sure recipe for flatulence and cramp in my experience, but perhaps it impresses others.

The grandness of their qualification and vigour of their exercises cannot hide the fact that for all their gym-toned bodies and Oxbridge-trained minds they are servants of a largely foreign plutocracy. To his credit, the aptly named Cash does not try to hide it.

‘I have noticed,’ he says, ‘the number of former industrial, retail and manufacturing British families whose core business today is providing advice to a new generation of entrepreneurs.’ The Spear’s 500 includes a great-grandson of Winston Churchill, Randolph Churchill (a wealth manager at Rathbones), who rather than trying to lead his country has settled for understanding ‘all his clients’ needs and not just their wealth management requirements’.

Cash himself describes with honesty and pathos how his family lost their weaving business in the 1970s. He tried to buy it back and make his family a manufacturing family once again, but he could not make the deal work. Like so many others from the British elite, he has settled for tending to the needs of the far wealthier elites of Russia and Asia; to being a member of a servant class rather than a productive class.

When the Conservatives won their majority last week, I wondered why I was so upset. It is not that I hate them. I know the modern left can behave just as badly as the modern right — worse, on occasion, because its patina of righteousness allows it to get away with more. I realised that I felt sick to my stomach because I feared for my home city. The Spear’s 500 went to press before the count. As you flick through its pages, you catch a faint hint of fear in the booming self-confident voices of its wealth managers and equine advisers. What will happen if Labour wins and tax breaks for nom-doms go? Will the Russians and Indians keep coming if taxes on homes worth £2 million or more rise?

They had no need to fret. Buyers swamped central London estate agents with orders of £500 million on Friday morning. Agents predicted prices would soar by 10 per cent as the Tory victory let loose a ‘surge in pent-up activity’.

The working and middle classes will carry on fleeing the capital. Housing association homes will go the way of council homes as David Cameron dumps them at a discount. The circle from central London within which only the wealthiest can live will grow ever wider, and the once great, exciting, industrious and creative metropolis of London will become what the Spear’s 500 want it to become: Monaco without the sunshine.

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  • ExToryVoter

    So, is this what Fraser Nelson hoped for from a Conservative victory?

    • willshome

      Well it’s what he’s got. Mayoral election should be interesting.

    • rtj1211

      I think this came from a Blair Government…….

  • Precambrian

    Why would anyone choose to live in London, or pretty much any city, if they had the resources to live elsewhere?

    I suspect that hyper-expensive city houses are idiot-traps; separating the fool from their money at a startling velocity.

    • willshome

      They aren’t separated, but consolidated.

    • Newton Unthank

      Why would anyone choose to live in London, or pretty much any city, if they had the resources to live elsewhere?

      Convenient access to escort services, illicit substances, and great takeaway food of course.

      • rtj1211

        If you’re that rich, you’d fly in some escorts on your private jet. I don’t think you’d have problems finding a cocaine dealer in any of the world’s major cities either…….

    • djkm

      Because jobs. If the jobs moved, everyone would as well, and we could leave the dead city. Even those areas that were considered ‘edgy’ are now simply disneyland versions of the same.

      • Wh0_Is_J0hn_Galt

        I can commute into central London from the Midlands quicker than my partner who lives in Zone 4, so I don’t buy the live in London for jobs argument.

        • djkm

          well, the other, obvious reason is that it’s ‘cosmopolitan’, as are most cities. There are still patches of London that haven’t yet been turned into luxury flats and have some character to them, and until then, it’s still worth living here if that’s your bag. It certainly gives people a different view on society than the sometimes insular view of the out of towners. Am I a snob? probably, but a snob that’s actually met the horrors of multiculturalism head on, and decided it’s not acutally that bad, instead of the imagined nightmare that allows some parties to thrive.

          And the parks! who doesn’t love the parks.

          • Kennybhoy

            Amen.

            “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
            — Samuel Johnson

          • Ivan Ewan

            I hate to imagine what suicide rates were like just after the original publication of that statement.

          • rtj1211

            There’s very little intellectual about London. It’s a place for people addicted to plot, swindle and power games.

            BDSM tendencies all……..

          • Kennybhoy

            Och I dunno. I live 5-10 minutes equidistant from the BM and the BL. My idea of Heaven! 🙂

          • Kennybhoy

            “Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.”
            – Samuel Johnson

          • mohdanga

            It’ll be so much more ‘cosmopolitan’ once the Muslim population reaches 20% (currently it’s at 12% in London)….oh, wait, then it will become less ‘cosmopolitan’.

          • djkm

            See? That hypothetical nonsense might frighten your average backwater yokel, but not us!

        • Mary Woll

          There is an undeniable joy of being able to walk the streets and parks of a great city whenever you feel like it. Without having to plan, negotiate public transport or driving there in a car. If you have enough money to pay for the privilige of doing this at the spur of the moment because the city is just outside your doorstep, I don’t see why you shouldn’t.

    • Partner

      well, yes, it’s pretty awful. But have you tried the country? Unspeakable. And that’s just the food and the people.

    • Copyright101

      Because you need to stay close to lots of other rich people. Dogs wee on the same lamp post, not because it’s the best lamp post but because it’s the one all the others use.

  • kathee

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking abocut me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snadtched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com

    ) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (prayerstosaverelationship@gmail.com

    ).

  • souptonuts

    When all is said and done there is not much lovelier than the sweep of the Heworth by-pass. There is always Gateshead.

  • Zanderz

    Interesting that both Concierge and D Lowenstein Assoc. have the most awful websites – circa 2002 style at best. Maybe it’s non-U to know javascript.

    • Ivan Ewan

      The most infuriatingly bad web sites I’ve ever used could not have been half as bad if they did not show off how “talented” they were with Javascript.

      The Independent on mobile, for example, automatically plays embedded videos if you have scrolled down beyond a certain point, filling up the entire screen in order to do so. It’s completely unusable, and even then it’s one of the lesser offenders.

      • rtj1211

        Daily Mail is even worse – it uses the same goddam advert on every page and so you hear about those dreadful oiks who are ‘Halifax’s kind of person’ fifteen times before you decide to get the gossip elsewhere…….

  • Sarka

    I have an Oxford degree and I am terribly skint and not proud, though I am not on for sky-diving. How does one get in on this servicing the super-rich lark?

    • lottie123

      If you have to ask,you don’t know the correct people.

    • Cim Thayne

      Here’s a dirty little secret- wealth management pays significantly less than top-end corporate law and investment banking/private equity. It’s essentially a business for little Henriettas and Tabathas who only made it into Oxford with Daddy’s help and can’t quite cut it in the actual business world.

      A few people at the top who own the firms or charge commission rake it in, but the majority of these people are those who partied away their time at Oxbridge, graduated with a 2:2 (or worse) and nothing lined up, and drifted into WM because foreigners are impressed by posh people and they had nothing better to do.

      • Sarka

        Oh damn! Degree embarrassingly higher than 2:2, class-neutral name, never even tried to cut it in business… I’ll have to settle for something that pays significantly less than significantly less than top-end corporate law etc…
        Maybe dog-walking for the super-rich?

        • rtj1211

          Private tutor for little rich kids pays quite well: hours of work usually before and after school and maybe weekends too. As long as you negotiate full accommodation into the deal, the salary can be quite acceptable…….

      • Partner

        correct -this is a magazine promoted by Private Client lawyers. On the other hand, if you are a private client these are the firms for you because the top corporate firms won’t take you seriously. My experience of these types on the divorce front is that some are excellent and some are indeed Tobys…………

    • rtj1211

      Well, I guess you could seduce one of their daughters and use that in negotiations to agree to give her up in return for a job servicing the friends of her father??

    • stephengreen

      A well-spoken and educated Brit on your beck and call, is supposedly better though of by the well-heeled in China than an overly expensive miniature dog or an African orphan is by Hollywood starlets.

    • Mary Woll

      Servility.

  • MC73

    Sounds like great business to me. Billionaires bring their hard/illicitly-earned to London and these chaps part them from a bit of it for variety of nebulous services. Lots of lovely tax to help the widow and orphan for zero effort and it’s not like Abramovich is pushing anyone off the housing ladder.

    • Hamburger

      Perhaps off the top of it.

    • rtj1211

      Depends whether driving the top of the market into the stratosphere causes the rest of the market to escape the compass of the rest through ‘trickle down’ doesn’t it??

      • MC73

        Yes, but it doesn’t. When a plutocrat buys a £50m mansion it has no effect on the price of a 2 bed in Streatham. If prices of the latter are rising it is simply due to a undersupply of flats and oversupply of cheap money.

  • Grant Melville

    There’s something strangely horrifying about the world of the UHNWIs. It’s a place where folk literally have more money than they know what to do with, so much money that they need highly specialist advice on where to keep it and what best to do with it so that it generates more money. There’s a small part of me that’s vaguely envious of the super-rich, but a much larger part of me is appalled at the emptiness of their lives. Perhaps I’m wrong (and I’m sure I am in some cases) in supposing that the lives of the hugely wealthy revolve around their wealth. But, there’s an appearance of insatiability about those lives which suggests an underlying unhappiness which is constantly medicated with the anaesthetic of luxury. I wonder how many have thought, while they’re busily laying up treasures for themselves on the earth, of their undying soul? Or is this one of things they’d rather forget, and put off the inevitable question? There’s a tendency for us (well, for me at least) to see the rich as a different sort of people altogether from the rest of humanity, moving in a different sphere. But, it’s the same world, and they’re human beings just the same as me, just the same as us all. They have the same basic, fundamental need of salvation, and a Saviour.

    • lottie123

      Money does not buy happiness.However you can be miserable in great comfort.

      • albert pike

        “Money does not buy happiness”

        Quite right. Probably because at the end of the day they know exactly who and what they are.

      • MathMan

        Also, don’t forget that happiness can’t buy you money!

    • rtj1211

      In general, agonising about their soul is what the children of the UHNWI do. They can afford to: pampered by mummy and daddy’s money. Mummy and daddy often started out dirt poor.

      I don’t think you’ll find the rich any wiser than the rest, they are just more canny, street-wise and ruthless. They have just as many difficulties with their children as any other family……

    • Rohit Chatterjee

      1. You are absolutely right
      2. But if you had their money, you would do it too
      3. And so would I
      Sigh.

      • Grant Melville

        Exactly! Human nature is what it is. Personally, I find it impossible not to believe in the total depravity of man. As the apostle Paul succinctly puts it, “For that which I do, I do not own: for not what I will, this I do; but what I hate, this I practise… For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, good does not dwell: for to will is there with me, but to do right I find not.” (Romans 7 v 15, 18).

    • Pulseguy

      What in the world makes you think the rich think only of money? Why do you think that? I know that thinking only of money will not make you rich. Generally rich people who have earned it themselves like doing things, and like doing big challenging things. It isn’t a love of money that got them rich, nor keeps them rich. It is a love of challenge. Otherwise they love their kids and grandkids and Christmas and puppies etc., exactly the same as everyone else.

      Britain seems to have more than its share of people who demonize and caricaturize wealthy people. It is ridiculous. As you point out they have the same basic, fundamental needs as everyone else. Obviously, they know that.

      • Grant Melville

        To be fair, I didn’t say that the thoughts of the rich are perpetually occupied with money, I suggested that the lives of the hugely wealthy revolve around their wealth. It’s a lifestyle which allows for an almost infinite amount of distraction. Challenge and power serves a similar purpose, really to give life itself a purpose. But, I believe the happiest folk are those who don’t have much and don’t want much, who’re content with what they have.

        I don’t have a beef with the super-wealthy, I just feel sorry for them. Both wealth and attainment will ultimately fail to satisfy, they don’t answer fulfil those basic, fundamental needs. Speaking personally, if those needs are fulfilled, the rest doesn’t really amount to much.

        • Pulseguy

          I know as many poor people who obsess about their things as I know rich people who do. Maybe more as a percentage. What do you think a shopping cart lady is? She is a poor person who obsesses about her pile of garbage.

          The happiest folks are those who have chosen to be happy. It is immaterial how much you have, or don’t have. You value money far too much, and give it far too much power. It is largely irrelevant, except for one thing. It buys you back your time.

          A big part of living a happy life for a lot of us is to do things that use all parts of ourselves, and that challenge ourselves. Often, not always, but often these actions lead to wealth. The wealth itself is a nice by-product of achievement. You’re kidding yourself if you think having money is something that others should feel sorry for you about.

  • Patrick Roy

    Meh. UHNWIs create a lot of stress for themselves. Spear’s helps them out. They navigate the world of new riche with confidence. And better new riche than no riche.

  • Ebst

    “Posh, educated and energetic: meet the servants of the super-rich”

    I though this was going to be an article about the Tory government.

    • James Jones

      “the Tory government”

      Labour too are now – government for the plutocrats.

    • Copyright101

      You think that the super rich don’t own Labour too?

      • Ebst

        Good point

  • James Salvatore

    Them being uber rich doesn’t bother me. They are the *incredibly* rich; but so what? I’m very happy in my life. Maybe if I had a 0.0000001% chance in life to lie on a yacht in the Med whilst getting my balls fondled – I’d be chuffed to **** . But….. being realistic…… I’ll just settle for getting my balls fondled thanks if that’s OK.

  • Malcolm Knott

    CQN0 HWY9

  • Maureen Fisher

    I am a Londoner. It’s deeply depressing what’s happening to our city. Only the poor whose housing is subsidised and wealthy foreigners can afford to live here.

  • borzix1
  • stephengreen

    Servants to oligarchs, the brats of corrupt Gulf monarchies (whom in a better age, we would be overthrowing) and the extended families of Third World dictators, kept in power by globalism and foreign aid. Obviously these employees have no class, honour, or depth of lineage, only a family trust. Suggests the Maxwell girl and her like. Keeping up appearances, as regression to the mean and poor marital choices put them in a truly fitting position and one gained through nepotism.

  • Parkmeister

    I know some of the people on that list – none of them Oxbridge or posh – just slavishly hardworking technocrats. All self-made.

  • mikewaller

    Think of the extreme sacrifices the forebears of these people made in two world words in contrast with what they are up to now. Crying does not suffice!

    • Terry Field

      The Second World Word!!!
      Yes, remember it well. Adjectives sent over the channel in boodledugs!
      For you ze verb iz over!

      • mikewaller

        Sorry for the error and appreciate your witty response. Unfortunately, I found a mass of comments in my Spam folder where my highly discerning computer had put them and am having to work through them at speed.

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