A lush breed of businesses is out there, waiting to serve. Companies like My Moneypenny, Quintessentially, Preferred Group, TenUK and Triangle and are all competitors that call themselves “lifestyle management” companies. The idea behind them is that high net-worth individuals and time-stretched executives—even those who may already employ personal assistants—still often require more help to run their demanding business and personal lives.
Part concierge, part gal Friday and part savvy social director, these services claim to be able to juggle everything from obtaining hard-to-get dinner and theatre reservations to renting a villa in St. Tropez, arranging for a personal Pilates session in your hotel suite and having your dog walked.
And the price may not be all that worth fretting about. According to the reps, it’s relatively cost-effective to hire a concierge service, especially when measuring it up to all you’re getting in return. Services can prove especially valuable when your time is better spent on other things.
“It is very cost effective to utilize a concierge service,” says Emad Ghobrial, Founder and CEO of Preferred Group, a company headquartered in Los Angeles and maintains an extensive network of affiliates in major cities and popular travel destinations world-wide. The company’s clients include royals, dignitaries, and affluent individuals and their families.
“Individuals often pay a personal or executive assistant double the amount of a good concierge service and they won’t get the resources and knowledge of a seasoned professional concierge,” insists the master of savvy, sophistication and discretion.
And when you’re willing to pay, the companies aim to please. You’re promised the A-Z of anything lifestyle, with extensive and practically unlimited services for both business and pleasure.
“We also handle general requests such as hiring of estate staff and personal shoppers,” throws in Ghobrial.
Preferred Group also arranges its share of heydays, from full trip arrangements for clients to attend the Summer Olympic Games and regularly shipping cases of a particular iced tea only found in the United States to clients overseas; all the way to flying in a particular beluga caviar from France for a client to enjoy on a private flight from New York to San Francisco.
“Other extraordinary requests include locating a particular type of gym equipment, and delivering it to a clients’ suite in every city that they visit,” adds Ghobrial.
At Preferred Group, Membership is $2,000/month for the VIP ‘Preferred Circle’ level. This level is best suited for International clients and for clients that require assistance with heavy travel arrangements, detailed project work, access to one professional concierge in addition to a full team of professionals at all times.
To justify their cost, the companies are diligent about getting personal and understanding each individual member, all the way from detailed profiles for each client and their immediate family members to each individual’s specific preferences. Profiles include travel preferences, food preferences, and sporting and entertainment preferences, interests, allergies, favourite flowers, favourite beverages, and any other favourite you may think of.
Granted all the exclusivity and personal touches they can provide, the question is how these companies plan to survive. The smart strategy seems to move beyond individual to corporate accounts. Quintessentially, for example, has clients including Cartier, Jaguar, Le Reve and The Phillamores. “Corporates use as an extension of their product and services to take care of their VIPS where their particularly niche service cannot.”
But Preferred Group doesn’t see it that way. The company has just let go of its corporate accounts, claiming that busy executives were using the Group as a tool, an extension to their executive assistant to give them an edge for maintaining client relationships.
“One other service that sets us so far apart is that we manage American Express points,” differentiates Ghobrial.
Knowing how to utilize these points properly is extremely time consuming and can be a very daunting task for those who are not familiar with this. Preferred Group utilizes points in ways that bring the most benefits to the client. Utilizing American Express points for travel upgrades and buying first class tickets has resulted in savings up to $80,000 annually for some clients.
“In addition, all of our Preferred Circle level clients and 90% of our Executive Member level clients are American Express Centurion card holders.”
Most people who are members of Preferred Circle and other concierge companies are likely to be holders of the Centurion Card from American Express. Also known as the ‘black card,’ this wallet-sized status symbol has been designed for a very select group of people to support busy and demanding lifestyles. In the UK, annual membership costs £650. For their money, cardholders get a raft of concierge-type services—as well as astronomical spending limits.