Luxury Institute News

July 23, 2014

UBS, Merrill Sink in Luxury Ranking as Rockefeller Reaches Top

By Danielle Verbrigghe
July 23, 2014

Boutique wealth shops carry a much higher brand cachet than bigger firms among multimillionaires, according to a recent survey by the Luxury Institute. While Rockefeller Wealth Management rose to the top of the list, several of the biggest firms, including Merrill Lynch and UBS Private Wealth Management, continued an ongoing descent toward the bottom.

In the study, the Luxury Institute asked multimillionaires with an average net worth of $15 million and average annual income of $800,000 to evaluate wealth firms on factors including product quality, exclusivity, social status and ability to deliver special client experiences, and assigned firms a score based on the responses.

Rockefeller Wealth Management, a New York-based multi-family office, topped the list of highly ranked wealth managers. Coming second was Atlanta-based Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management. Convergent Wealth Advisors was a close third, followed by First Republic Private Wealth Management and Bessemer Trust.

“Consumers are opting for boutique firms,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Wealthy consumers really value relationships and the smaller boutique firms really deliver.”

Some of the biggest firms meandered at the bottom or sunk lower. Merrill Lynch tumbled to last place out of 39 firms, while UBS Private Wealth Management came in second to last. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Charles Schwab rounded out the bottom five.

The brand reputation problem facing some of the largest firms is partially driven by legal and regulatory woes and other negative press coverage some of the brands attracted since 2008, Pedraza says. “Any time you have news that’s a negative in the media, these firms are going to get hit,” he says. “The larger firms took a beating.”

Other big brands, including, Citi Private Bank, Barclays Wealth, HSBC Private Bank and Wells Fargo also ranked in the bottom half of brands.

The rankings reflect general wealthy individual perceptions of overall brands, rather than specific client experiences, Pedraza ways. While the specific rankings tend to vary from year to year, quartile placement remains relatively stable, he says. This year’s results continue an ongoing trend of boutique wealth shops rising in the rankings and wirehouses and bigger firms sliding lower, he says.

While dropping slightly from its number three spot in 2013, Bessemer Trust made the top five list several years in a row. Brown Brothers Harriman, which took the top spot last year and in 2012, tumbled off the top five list. Northern Trust, Vanguard Personal Investors and J.P. Morgan Private Wealth Management also fell out of the top five.

Brown Brothers Harriman’s absence on the list doesn’t indicate an image problem, Pedraza says. “I don’t think it’s so much that they’re faltering as consumers perceive other brands to be better,” he says.

Boutique shops have an advantage over larger firms when it comes to creating a connection with wealthy investors, says Linda Beerman, chief fiduciary officer and head of wealth strategies for Atlantic Trust.

“Our clients feel they have an exclusive relationship with their client service representatives,” says Beerman. “It’s really a high-touch, client-service driven model.”

Offering unique experiences and hosting events is one way Convergent Wealth Advisors positions itself as a luxury brand, says Douglas Wolford, president and chief operating officer for Convergent Wealth Advisors.

“Wealthy people can find any number of people who are good investors, but what most wealthy people want is an experience,” Wolford says. “Boutiques provide that experience better than big companies.”

To differentiate themselves from other firms offering advice to ultra-high-net-worth and high-net-worth investors and families, Convergent offers special events for wealthy clients. For example, the firm is hosting an event in which wealthy clients can have lunch with David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group. Convergent has also held events for clients where wealthy investors get to drive new models of luxury vehicles, such as Ferraris or Bentleys, before they become available to the general public.

“We focus on trying to provide clients with experiences that money can’t buy,” says Wolford

Such experiences go a long way in attracting wealthy clients and enhancing the firm’s reputation as a luxury brand, Wolford says. “Convergent is a luxury brand and we take care to protect that as part of our image,” he says.

And that image has contributed to client development, according to Wolford.

Convergent Wealth Advisors has seen its Independence by Convergent unit, which caters to investors with between $1 million and $10 million in assets, grow in recent years, driven in part by brand perception, Wolford says. That division has added about 300 new high-net-worth clients over the past two years.

“The brand has really driven that growth. People want to be associated with a luxury, boutique brand,” says Wolford. “I think Convergent is an aspirational brand for people in Indepencence.”

Overall, wealthy individuals are apt to place a greater degree of trust in smaller, boutique firms, says Pedraza.

For brands at the bottom, “There’s only up they can go,” Pedraza says.

Click the link to read the entire article which includes quotes from Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute:


May 2, 2013

Pentamillionaire Investors Reveal Whether 34 Top Firms Are Worth What They’re Paid To Watch Their Portfolios

(NEW YORK) May 2, 2013 – Affluent U.S. investors with at least $5 million in assets and $200,000 minimum annual income rate 34 national financial services firms in the Luxury Institute’s 2013 Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) wealth management survey. Wealthy individuals share opinions on each firm’s quality, exclusivity, social status and overall client experience.

Only 30% of firms achieved an overall LBSI score of 5.0 out of a possible 10.0, suggesting significant dissatisfaction from high-net worth investors with their wealth management providers. Brown Brothers Harriman earned the highest LBSI of 5.87.

“Especially in wealthy management, client relationships and trust can take years to cultivate and a short period to deteriorate,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Smart firms need to listen to what wealthy individuals are telling them to maintain brand reputation and client loyalty.”

Respondents ranked the following 34 wealth management firms, listed alphabetically:

  • Ameriprise Financial
  • Bank of America
  • Barclays Wealth Management
  • BB&T Wealth Management
  • Bernstein Global Wealth Management
  • Bessemer Trust
  • BMO Harris Private Banking
  • BNY Mellon Wealth Management
  • Boston Private Bank and Trust
  • Brown Brothers Harriman
  • Charles Schwab
  • Citi Private Bank
  • Credit Suisse Private Banking
  • Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management
  • Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Fifth Third Private Bank
  • Goldman Sachs
  • HSBC Private Bank
  • J.P. Morgan Private Bank
  • J.P. Morgan Private Wealth Management
  • Merrill Lynch
  • Merrill Lynch Private Banking & Investment Group
  • Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Wealth Management
  • Neuberger Berman
  • Northern Trust
  • PNC Wealth Management
  • SunTrust Private Wealth Management
  • U.S. Bank Private Client Group
  • U.S. Trust
  • UBS Private Wealth Management
  • Vanguard Personal Investors
  • Wells Fargo Private Bank
  • Wilmington Trust Wealth Advisory Services

About Luxury Institute (
The Luxury Institute is the objective and independent global voice of the high net-worth consumer. The Institute conducts extensive and actionable research with wealthy consumers about their behaviors and attitudes on customer experience best practices. In addition, we work closely with top-tier luxury brands to successfully transform their organizational cultures into more profitable customer-centric enterprises. Our Luxury CRM Culture consulting process leverages our fact-based research and enables luxury brands to dramatically Outbehave as well as Outperform their competition. The Luxury Institute also operates, a membership-based online research portal, and the Luxury CRM Association, a membership organization dedicated to building customer-centric luxury enterprises.


September 5, 2012

Wealth Management Boutiques Beat Big Banks In Luxury Institute Brand Status Survey Of Pentamillionaires

(NEW YORK) September 5, 2012 – Investors with at least $5 million in assets and minimum annual income of $200,000 prefer smaller boutiques instead of larger Wall Street firms in the latest Wealth Management Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) survey from the independent and objective New York-based Luxury Institute.  LBSI scores comprise respondents’ evaluations (1-10) of each brand’s quality, exclusivity, social status and ability to deliver special client experiences.

Brown Brothers Harriman earns top honors with the highest LBSI score of 7.01, and ranks first on each of the four sub-categories. Brown Brothers’ closest competition comes from Boston Private Bank and Trust (6.37), Neuberger Berman Private Asset Management (6.3) and Bessemer Trust (6.27).

Wealthy investors also show a strong streak of independence with the largest share (8.7%) saying that they would use Fidelity for future wealth management services. Fidelity is also the most recommended brand, with 61% of pentamillionaires saying they would refer friends and family to Fidelity.  Only 32% would recommend Goldman Sachs.

“Reputations for honesty and superior client service are what make the smaller firms standouts in this survey,” said Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “This is demonstrated by revered brands Rockefeller and Glenmede, which barely missed the mark in attaining a statistical sample, but would have been in the top range otherwise.”

Respondents reported $15 million average net worth and average income of $720,000.

 About the Luxury Institute (
The Luxury Institute is the objective and independent global voice of the high net-worth consumer. The Institute conducts extensive and actionable research with wealthy consumers about their behaviors and attitudes on customer experience best practices. In addition, we work closely with top-tier luxury brands to successfully transform their organizational cultures into more profitable customer-centric enterprises. Our Luxury CRM Culture consulting process leverages our fact-based research and enables luxury brands to dramatically Outbehave as well as Outperform their competition. The Luxury Institute also operates, a membership-based online research portal, and the Luxury CRM Association, a membership organization dedicated to building customer-centric luxury enterprises.


March 8, 2012

Atlantic Trust Recognized as Industry Leader for Private Client Investment Platform

(ATLANTA) March 7, 2012 — Atlantic Trust, the private wealth management division of Invesco Ltd. (NYSE: IVZ), has been recognized by Private Asset Management (PAM), a financial services industry trade publication, as having the Best Private Client Investment Platform–Performance among firms with more than $5 billion in assets under management (AUM). The 2012 PAM Awards were announced on February 7 at a ceremony in New York.

“This award is a significant accomplishment and reflects Atlantic Trust’s unwavering commitment to investment excellence,” saidJack Markwalter, chairman and CEO of Atlantic Trust. “We manage strategies on a proprietary basis where we have a competitive track record, and we also search globally for institutional-quality, external portfolio managers with strong, risk-adjusted returns.”

“Our investment philosophy is centered on the idea that the best way to help families preserve and grow their wealth is through global diversification among asset classes and investment strategies,” said David Donabedian, CFA, chief investment officer of Atlantic Trust. “To achieve these results, we have designed a disciplined asset allocation process and hybrid investment model that combines proprietary and external investment offerings. Because we’ve used this approach for decades, we have an experience edge that gives our clients outstanding access to leading investment managers in all asset classes.”

PAM annually invites firms to compete for awards in several categories, and then a panel of independent industry experts selects the nominees and winners.  PAM says that it considers the following criteria when selecting the winners of these awards:

  • Financial progress: candidates must be able to demonstrate performance track-records over the course of the last twelve months
  • Growth: client numbers, internal hires and geographic expansion
  • Client satisfaction: provide evidence of client satisfaction, including anecdotes and direct client statements
  • Product innovation: details of new services and products launched over the course of 2011

This recognition builds on the strong momentum Atlantic Trust brings into 2012, following a year of national recognition, including the firm’s 2011 PAM win as Best Private Wealth Manager in Overall Client Service and recognition as the Top U.S. Wealth Management Firm by The Luxury Institute.

Any reference to a ranking, a rating or an award provides no guarantee of future performance results, and is not necessarily indicative of any particular client’s experience and is not constant over time.  In 2012, Atlantic Trust was selected by PAM for the award of “Best Private Client Investment Platform – Performance” based on information provided by Atlantic Trust. 10 firms entered the category for this award and 4 firms were shortlisted, of which Atlantic Trust was the only firm selected for the award.  The specific criteria PAM used to determine the award is considered proprietary and could not be obtained. In response to PAM’s question about “how [we] have developed our [investment] offering in 2011″ regarding “product innovation, performance and how [we] dealt with the challenges of the last year,” Atlantic Trust provided an overview of our investment approach and recent asset allocation recommendations, as well as highlights of proprietary performance.  Atlantic Trust provided detailed performance information for the Atlantic Trust Disciplined Equity Strategy.  Atlantic Trust did not provide detailed performance information with respect to the more than 50 other proprietary and externally managed strategies available on our platform. Thus, the reference to “investment platform – performance” in the award should not be misconstrued as suggesting that PAM conducted a comprehensive review and analysis of the performance of all of the strategies on our platform.

In 2011, of the five firms shortlisted by PAM for the “Best Private Wealth Manager in Overall Client Service” rating, Atlantic Trust was the only firm selected for the award. For more information, visit  In 2011, The Luxury Institute, aNew York-based research firm, conducted research among 500 pentamillionaires (defined as wealthy consumers with a minimum annual income of $200,000 along with a minimum net worth of $5 million) about their opinions of luxury brands

The Luxury Institute ranked Atlantic Trust No. 1 among 35 private wealth management firms based on quality, exclusivity, social status and self-enhancement with an LBSI score of 6.96 out of a maximum possible 10. Sample base: Wealthy Consumers familiar with each firm. . For more information, visit


December 5, 2011

From Georgia, A Peach of a Bank

Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management offers unusually high-touch service, and it starts with the CEO

By Suzanne McGee
December 3, 2011

The rich like to drive Maybach cars, carry Hermès bags and keep their money at…Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management. In a recent survey by the Luxury Institute, a New York-based consulting firm, people with assets of at least $5 million rated the low-profile Atlanta firm as the No. 1 wealth-management outfit in terms of quality, service and even “social cachet.”

That may have surprised JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch and the 32 others on the list, but it made complete sense to Jack Markwalter, Atlantic Trust’s CEO. “This may be a crowded market, but very few firms get it right,” he says.

Atlantic Trust, a unit of mutual-fund giant Invesco, offers an intensely personal kind of service, and that starts at the top. Not so long ago, when Markwalter was helping to sign up as a client an Alabama family with five children, the family required that he meet all of them. In short order, in separate meetings, he had discussions with four of the kids. The fifth, somewhat of a global nomad, was harder to pin down. But one day, he got a call saying he could breakfast with her the next morning in London. He hopped on a plane, went straight to the Savoy, met with the daughter for three hours and then dashed home for a board meeting.

That kind of attention tends to pay off.

The firm’s assets under management climbed more than 30% from January 2009 through this past October, to $17.5 billion. About half the gains came from investment returns, the rest from inflows of money from existing and new clients. Atlantic gets the huge bulk of its new business through referrals by existing customers; it does absolutely no advertising.

Good wealth management isn’t entirely about investing; the firm also provides broad financial planning, trust services and more. One woman with “several hundred million” turned to Atlantic Trust for help in giving the bulk of it away, company officials recount. They worked with her for a decade to establish guidelines and priorities and serve as the public face of her philanthropy. Atlantic Trust executives routinely showed up to cut ribbons and open buildings.

“Clients want someone to be their quarterback, even if they don’t give us all their assets, and that’s a role we can fulfill,” Markwalter says.

Invesco created Atlantic Trust by acquiring three small firms from 2001 through 2004 — Boston-based Pell Rudman Trust, Chicago’s Stein Roe Investment Counsel and Whitehall Asset Management in New York — and melding them. The resulting company is still just a tiny part of Invesco, which oversees about $654 billion. But to Markwalter, the link with Invesco is a competitive advantage in a field of stand-alone boutiques and financial conglomerates. Invesco’s mission — investing for clients — aligns very well with Atlantic Trust’s, he says. “Boy, it helps to have the mother ship and the parent company moving in the same direction with you.”

Despite the Invesco connection, only two of the roughly 100 investment managers that Atlantic Trust recommends are part of the Invesco lineup. One is Lyman Missimer, who runs the low-fee, highly regarded Invesco Liquid Assets Portfolio money market fund. The other is billionaire buyout and turnaround specialist Wilbur Ross, whose firm, WL Ross & Co., was acquired by Invesco in 2006.

Says Markwalter: “If we see other opportunities for our clients from Invesco that are special and unique, we’ll put them through the same due diligence that we would any other investment product.”

Like other investors in these times of record-low interest rates, Atlantic Trust’s clients are clamoring for income-producing investments. They’re looking for “an enhanced yield strategy with some growth potential and an above-average income stream,” says Chief Investment Officer David Donabedian. To him, that means energy-based master limited partnerships, floating-rate investment-grade corporate debt, and emerging-markets debt securities, issued in local currency, rather than shaky U.S. dollars.

Markwalter, for his part, is following some lessons learned over a lifetime. Born and bred in Augusta, Ga., he grew up watching his father solve financial challenges for clients as a broker with Johnson Lane and its various successor firms. “Even before I went to school, I’d be at my dad’s office, pulling up the Coke stock quote on the Quotron,” he recalls. What impressed him just as much as the fancy technology was his father’s commitment: On family holidays, he’d spend time on the phone with clients each day. “I saw how helping your clients with these issues created a really special relationship.”

For Markwalter, the challenge now is to keep growing his company without losing the personal touch. “We can double or triple the business without changing that,” he maintains. If he’s right, you can expect to hear a lot more about Atlantic Trust in the years to come.

May 20, 2011

Maintenance of customer relationships key concern at Luxury Interactive conference

By Rachel Lamb
Luxury Daily
May 19, 2011

The chief expectation for attendees at the Luxury Interactive Conference: Integrating Your Marketing and Branding Strategies Globally May 24-25 are real-life case studies of luxury brands, whose examples will help the industry to more effectively navigate in the future.

This invitation-only event at the Millennium Hotel London Mayfair, London, will feature executives from upscale brands such as LVMH’s Tag Heuer, Alfred Dunhill, Polo Ralph Lauren and Christian Dior. Luxury analysts will also attend and speak to explain what is moving the needle in the luxury industry today.

“We launched the event in 2007 and have experienced a tremendous amount of change in the industry throughout the years,” said Seth Adler, general manager of Luxury Interactive, New York. “We’re excited for the 2011 incarnation of the event as the industry seems to be in a much healthier place than the recent past.”

Emerging  trends
At last year’s show, much of the hubbub was around social media marketing.

This year, Shenan Reed, founder and managing partner of Morpheus Media and a host at the conference, hopes that the show will focus on digital trends.

The United States is further ahead in digital marketing than Europe, per Ms. Reed.

Therefore, this conference may encourage new trends such as search engine optimization or Web site development to emerge in Europe.

“The industry has woken up to digital marketing in the last year, and we’ve made some great strides,” Ms. Reed said. “Banner ads are making a huge comeback because they’re so much more developed than what they have been in the past.

“We can make an entire experience for a customer through a banner ad without having them leave the page,” she said.

Meanwhile, social media is continuing to be a beacon of customer interaction, per Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, New York.

“I’m looking forward to hearing about the digital space in luxury and how effective brands’ Facebook and Twitter presence are,” Mr. Pedraza said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it is generating sales, building long-term loyalty and what functionality is necessary and what is just bells and whistles that customers don’t want.”

The industry ahead
There have been many reports that suggest affluent consumers are back, with open wallets at the ready.

However, do luxury brands know what to do with this newfound willingness to spend?

“The market is very healthy in terms of growth with regards to BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] markets, but we have some challenges in the developed markets such as the U.S. and in Europe,” Mr. Pedraza said. “The service levels and relationship building capabilities leave a great deal to be desired.

“There is a lot of healthy activity, but there are real challenges and opportunities to address,” he said.

Moreover, Ms. Reed believes that consumers are more eager than ever to start splurging on luxury goods.

The Luxury Interactive show will be sure to address this concern, as well as make it easier for brands and consumers to interact.

“Real-life case studies are so important because everyone gets this wonderful, tactical information and it’s one of the great attributes of a conference like this,” Mr. Pedraza said.

“I expect a lot of open and friendly debates on the realities of the industry right now and the results of things that have really happened from actual case studies,” he said. “I expect a lot of best practice and honesty to help us better traverse the landscape better than we’re doing now.”

Tactics such as a better-developed Web site so that customers can easily find products or more mobile awareness is definitely something that could serve both the luxury industry and its consumers, per Ms. Reed.

Still, she believes that most brands are beginning to acknowledge these concerns and are taking marketing into their own hands.

“As far as consumer and profitability going up, I’m seeing positive things from luxury brands,” Ms. Reed said. “A lot of affluent consumers didn’t get hit as hard as any of them expected to be, and those that did get dinged are back and with a vengeance.

“I heard someone say ‘I’m too poor to buy cheap products,’” Ms. Reed said. “I truly believe that luxury brands are benefitting from this new wave of thinking.”

May 10, 2011

High Net-Worth Investors Weigh In On Wealth Managers; Luxury Institute WealthSurvey Shows Bigger Not Better As Boutiques Dominate In Brand Status But Big Firms Remain Popular

(NEW YORK) May 10, 2011 – Two new pieces of wealthy investor research released today by the independent and objective New York City-based Luxury Institute show wealthy U.S. investors with income of at least $200,000 per year and net worth of $5 million to have a dim view of Wall Street but extreme loyalty to their primary advisors.

In the 2011 Wealth Management Client Experience survey, wealthy investors say that the securities industry is reluctant to punish those who commit wrongful acts (43%), driven by greed (38%) and slow to disclose conflicts of interest (32%).  Nonetheless, there’s resistance to change with 45% of high-net worth investors spending at least 10 years with their advisor.

More than one-third (36%) of these investors use a full-service broker as primary advisor, while 28% use an independent advisor and 12% use a private bank.  Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo are the top three primary wealth managers to the wealthy.

In the 2011 Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) wealth management survey, clients ranked national firms on quality, exclusivity, social status and overall client experience.  Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management earns top honors (6.96), followed by Glenmede Trust (6.78) and Rockefeller Wealth Management (6.67).

“Wealthy clients want to stay loyal to their advisors,” says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, “It’s up to these firms to validate that loyalty.”

More details, broken down by respondents’ age, gender income and wealth, are available to journalists and upon request.

About The Luxury Institute (

The Luxury Institute is the objective and independent global voice of the high net-worth consumer. The Institute conducts extensive and actionable research with wealthy consumers about their behaviors and attitudes on customer experience best practices. In addition, we work closely with top-tier luxury brands to successfully transform their organizational cultures into more profitable customer-centric enterprises. Our Luxury CRM Culture consulting process leverages our fact-based research and enables luxury brands to dramatically Outbehave as well as Outperform their competition. The Luxury Institute also operates, a membership-based online research portal, and the Luxury CRM Association, a membership organization dedicated to building customer-centric luxury enterprises.

For Further Information, Please Contact:
The Luxury Institute, LLC
Martin Swanson
Vice President
(914) 909-6350

May 4, 2011

The Tastemakers

How Generation Y is helping to save luxury brands

By Fiona Soltes
May 2011

In the first quarter of 2011 alone, the British luxury brand added more than 600,000 “likes” to its Facebook page. At that rate, it’ll reach 10 million by the middle of next year…

…Milton Pedraza, CEO of research firm Luxury Institute, says “legacy” products are key, and that’s where luxury brands are gaining ground. Millennials typically view expensive purchases as necessary investments in themselves – falling more into the “need” than the “want” category – but “people still don’t spend as much on luxury as they did before,” he says…

Click the link to read the entire article which includes several additional quotes from Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute:

September 27, 2010

Connecting with the Wealthy Through Social Media: Can You Reach a Luxury Box From the Bleachers?

By April Rudin
Huffington Post
September 24,2010

Something I once read likened the lives of high net-worth individuals to all others attending a sports event. Although some fans are in the bleachers while others are in luxury boxes, everyone is watching the same game at the same time. How to “upgrade” your seat?

Understanding the rules of the high net-worth space are easy. Exclusivity and privacy prevail. That said, it is easy to understand why there has been a reluctant migration to social media sites for high-net worth individuals. While “mainstream” social networking sites have become commonplace for the fans in the bleachers, the trickle down from social networking sites to the high net-worth has been slow for the most part. According to Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, “Its taken a while for wealthy consumers to be using networking sites, mostly due to privacy issues and concerns.” Luxury Institute is a NYC-based research firm which focuses on high net-worth individuals. Pedraza goes on to say, “Now they want to leverage all of those social-networking advantages. In the past, most needed to attend many annual international meetings but now they can connect to like-minded people in Dubai or anywhere in the world in an instant.”

Peer-to-peer insight is available for the high net-worth on exclusive websites such as: A Small World, or Quintessentially. There is also a growing number of private member forums such as Institute of Private Investors (IPI) Memberlink. These like-minded subscribers are looking to exchange information on advisers, fees, tax strategies, insurance/legal matters, succession planning, and any number of lifestyle topics such as luxury travel, entertainment, family governance issues, etc.

Even areas formerly clandestine like private equity and venture capital have ventured in to the social media area due to the ability to grease the dealflow pipeline to allow investors and money to “meet-up” in a vetted forum. It allows for more targeted funneling of investment money to be allocated to specific deals. David Teten and Chris Farmer report in the June Issue of Harvard Business Review that social media is a “best practice” among more than 150 venture capital and private equity firms surveyed.

More and more specialty sites are starting up to link the affluent with a variety of service providers and other like-minded people. Striking the balance between the two and coming up with a successful revenue model without “selling” out your members is key. Some firms have annual fees to forego accepting advertising. And others accept fees for referrals, etc.

If any of you reading through this article is thinking of joining any of these groups, remember that you probably have to know someone who matters. For some sites, you need a recommendation from a member and others you must complete a rigorous vetting process. These sites spend a tremendous amount of time selecting the right members as those are the gate-keepers for the next group of invitees and so on.

As usual, you can tell them “April sent you” although you may be asked, “April who?”

April 20, 2010

Wealthy consumers rate Boston Private Bank top

By Helen Kearney

NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) – Tiny Boston Private Bank & Trust topped bigger and better-known wealth managers as best financial adviser for the wealthiest investors, according to a survey released on Tuesday by The Luxury Institute.

Two New York-based advisory firms followed the Boston firm: Bernstein Global Wealth Management, part of AllianceBernstein Holding LP (AB.N) and Rockefeller Wealth Management, a firm that started as the oil baron’s family money manager.

William Oberlies, senior financial officer of the investment group at Boston Private Bank, said their small size gives them an advantage over bigger firms.

“We’re able to give our clients direct access to their portfolio manager, the person actually making the investment decisions,” he said. “At bigger shops you usually have to deal with a middle person.”

The survey asked 505 investors with at least $5 million in net worth to rate wealth managers based on quality of service, exclusivity, the social status they bestow on their clients and other factors.

The survey also asked investors whether it was worth paying higher fees and whether they would recommend the firm to friends and family.

Boston Private, a unit of Boston Private Financial Holdings (BPFH.O), has 14 advisers and over $2.6 billion in banking assets and assets under management, according to Oberlies.

Respondents were only allowed to rate firms they were familiar with, which in Boston Private’s case was 30 people.

The highest-ranking nationwide firm was U.S. Trust, the private banking unit of Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), which finished in 16th place. Wells Fargo Wealth Management Group, a division of Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), came in 19th place.

Bessemer Trust, last year’s top placed firm, fell to 12th place. Wealth management firms need to do a better job of explaining why wealthy people should invest with them, said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of The Luxury Institute, a New York-based research firm.

“Wealthy people are fickle,” he said.

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