As Dr Chris Sier entered the Corinthia Hotel on Wednesday, en route to a cup of tea with the AgeWage management team, he noticed a gentleman handing over his Bentley keys to the doorman, with a fifty pound note as a tip .
Chris joined us genuinely surprised that so little value had been offered for the money.
I wonder about wealth!
The “wonders of wealth” are everywhere to be seen in London Town. Everyone who is wealthy is “extremely happy”- at least on the outside. Of course the point of the host of celebrity magazines is to expose that underneath the botox, the super-rich are just the same as us. Some are well-adjusted and most are bonkers.
Funnily enough, the same can be said of the happy people who inhabit the Cockpit pub in Blackfriars. My conclusion is that wealth doesn’t make you happy or sad, it just hermetically seals your façade in an aura of well-being.
If you are part of a money making concern that churns out £50 notes by the sack-full, spraying them around the Corinthia, is a totally logical thing to do. I guess that this is why so many St James Place customers are happy with what they are getting, there are rules to the club.
For St James Place is the “gentleman’s club for the mass affluent” just as The Corinthia is “the gentleman’s club for the celebrity”.
That’s the wonder of wealth management.
I find people talk about their investments with HL and SJP with the same rictus grin I find on those drinking tea in the Corinthia. Wealthy people have to wear their wealth on their sleeves, or else it is nothing. A low cost portfolio of tracker funds managed by Vanguard (or a free one managed by Fidelity) just doesn’t do it for wealthy Joe, there has to be a polo pony and an oak panelled atrium in the mix.
The same old crew who loved Equitable Life
Adam Norris, who made his fortune from Hargreaves and is now managing the fortunes of his racing car driver son, told me a great story of one of his early marketing coups.
As a young buck in the Hargreaves marketing team, he found many HL investors complaining about letters they were getting from the Equitable Life , telling them that the returns they’d been promised, weren’t coming any more.
Adam decided to become a member of the Equitable Life Society and invested the minimum premium to get him to see the rules of the
club society. They included one rule that enabled him to request a list of all other members of the society. He couldn’t market from the list but he could read it.
He got his team to type all the names into the HL database and discovered a 70% match with HL customers.
He mailed those matched and offered them a discrete exit from the Equitable Life Society onto Hargreaves Lansdown investment platform. HL took £30m in the first month.
We love our clubs
Opposite the Corinthia, is the National Liberal Club, where I hang out. Clubs are great places as they offer you the Corinthia at rather less and you don’t have to tip the doorman (although it’s nice to do so from time to time).
We love our clubs because they make us feel special and I am no different from anyone else. But if the cost of owning your place in the club stops you being financially comfortable , then it is time to throw off the rictus grin and (for me) return to the Cockpit.
I hope Eugen writes his study of HL investors.
In one of the great poems of the English language, Samuel Johnson explores the “vanity of human wishes”. There are 368 lines in the poem, here are four of them, that could define the Hargreaves Lansdown investor,
Where Wav’ring Man, betray’d by vent’rous Pride,
To tread the dreary Paths without a Guide;
As treach’rous Phantoms in the Mist delude,
Shuns fancied Ills, or chases airy Good.
Nothing changes, Johnson was echoing Juvenal , Eugen echoes Johnson.
So long as rich people have fifty pound notes to give away, Hargreaves Lansdown and St James Place and the majority of wealth managers will exist. They will promise much – not least a club where those of lesser means are excluded.
Other clubs are available