What it’s like to spend the day as a super rich customer of a private bank

From the outside, Weatherbys private bank is just another Georgian-fronted building nestled in Mayfair, a stone’s throw from The Ritz Hotel. Inside, I’m greeted with soft brown leather sofas and wooden tables adorned with bouquets of fresh flowers and glossy coffee table books.

Staff who meet me at reception wear designer Louboutin shoes and expensive cufflinks.

Weatherbys is one of a small and exclusive group of private banks managing the money of the super-rich and often famous.

A deposit of £300,000 is required and most clients (not customers) have at least half a million saved at the bank, which lists among its members software developers, executives and professional footballers. Each is assigned their own banker plus assistant, who manage their accounts directly.

I’m here to see for myself just how far away the world of private banking truly is from my high street bank. I’m invited to take tea from a white porcelain teapot and enjoy homemade biscuits before we discuss what my requirements are. My requirements!

Something to smile about: Adele Cooke gets ready to be spend the day being pampered at an  exclusive bank

Customer service at my bank branch involves waiting in a long queue, staring at old receipts on the floor and a grubby water cooler. When I do get to speak to a lacklustre member of staff they seem as if they’d rather be elsewhere. Yet if I want to phone, customer service involves endless waits on hold or trying to communicate with a bot.

I’m told that as a client at Weatherbys I would be given my banker’s landline and mobile number. For urgent issues, I could call the company direct, knowing all calls are answered in just three rings.

And unlike at high street banks, there’s no working out where the nearest branch is or when it might open. At Weatherbys, the bankers come to you, if that’s preferable, with most business conducted around the kitchen table. It’s these relationships that set private banks apart from the rest, according to Quentin Marshall, managing director of Weatherbys.

‘Relationships are the heart and soul of what we do,’ he says. ‘Our relationship with clients allows us to get personal, rather than just offer banking services. Clients will even call for restaurant recommendations.’

Often whole families deal with the same banker, who knows everything from their birthday to their children’s names. Bertie de Klee, a banker at Weatherbys, says: ‘I look after about 120 families. Within those family groups there may be a husband, wife, three children, housekeeper and PA.

‘We speak to them regularly so they tell us what is in the pipeline and use us as a sounding board.’

With such an intimate relationship to be had, it’s little wonder there is no online registration form or complicated security checks. Most prospective clients know a friend or relative who is already a member and are invited to see if they are a good fit before they can open an account.

Once welcomed as a member, a world of privilege is unlocked. Clients are encouraged to hobnob at lunches and events that include boxes at Royal Ascot and workshops with luxury designer jeweller Boodles.

It’s a rarefied world that many of us would love to be wealthy enough to join. But short of winning the lottery, I’m left wondering just how ordinary customers can ensure they get the best treatment from their bank.

The good news is there are perks and services accessible on the high street – if you know where to look.


A number of high street banks offer premium services that are not available to their standard customers. These can include a direct line to a bank manager, preferential loan and savings rates and free services such as travel and car insurance.

Some are available to customers with accumulated wealth or on high incomes. Each bank has different criteria, for example a minimum of £100,000 in savings or an income of at least £75,000 a year. Affluent customers are particularly lucrative for banks as they are likely to deposit large sums in savings and take out substantial loans. As a result, banks work to entice them in by offering them a range of perks.

Several banks also offer private banking, which tend to be for the very wealthiest customers who need substantial help managing their money.

James Daley, head of research agency Fairer Finance, says: ‘Private banking deals with high-net worth clients who have complicated assets and who need more help than they can get from a regular bank account. In comparison, premier banking caters to affluent people in the top 10 per cent of earners and offers them additional services.

‘Personalised banking services are increasing, as there are more higher-earners who have additional needs outside a regular bank account.’

Private banks differ from wealth managers as they do not always deal with investments directly. While they can offer guidance, not all banks will be involved in the process of investing assets on behalf of their clients.

Some premier and private banking services are free for customers who meet the eligibility criteria, while others come with a monthly fee.

If you opt for a paid-for account, make sure that you are getting good value for money and paying for perks that you actually need or want.

For example, if you pay for an account with travel insurance, make sure that you fulfil the policy’s eligibility criteria. Many have maximum age limits such as age 70 or 79.

Mobile phone cover may sound attractive, but you could find you don’t need it if you are already covered under your home insurance.

Consumer champion Martyn James says: ‘If you do have a personalised service make sure they understand your circumstances. With a premium account there may be things you are not eligible for, such as free travel or motor insurance. Don’t be afraid to haggle if benefits don’t apply to you.

‘Check what the market value is for certain services and then ask your bank to give you a better deal.’

James, who as a consumer rights specialist has worked with complaints resolution service Resolver, adds: ‘Do a yearly audit of all of your perks to make sure you’re not doubled up.’

Here are the options available at the big high street banks.


The bank owns Coutts, the private bank that served the late Queen.

Those looking for a NatWest premier service must have an income of at least £100,000 a year, joint earnings of £120,000, a mortgage of £500,000 or £100,000 in savings. The service gives access to a dedicated ‘premier manager’ with whom they can discuss their financial goals in person.

Premier customers get exclusive rates on loans, and can access investment funds run by Coutts.

Silver service: Adele with Weatherbys' Bertie de Klee

Silver service: Adele with Weatherbys’ Bertie de Klee

The NatWest Premier Select package is fee-free and gives access to an arranged overdraft, use of the premier banking app and free non-sterling transactions. For £2 a month customers can upgrade to Premier Reward, which includes up to £10 a month in cashback.

And for £31 a month, customers can upgrade to Premier Reward Black, which includes a concierge service with lifestyle managers who can help you book theatre tickets and tables at top restaurants using your account.


Customers must be able to establish an investment portfolio of at least £5 million with the bank to be able to apply for private banking. They are assigned a private banker who can help customers make investments, access unsecured lending and create personalised credit arrangements.

When asked, Barclays would not disclose the fees to access private banking, saying they are calculated on a client’s circumstances and the services they need.

Barclays also has a premier banking service for those with an income of at least £75,000 a year, or £100,000 saved with the bank.

The fee-free service gives access to exclusive saving, loan and investment rates, as well as access to phone banking 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Those who join Santander’s private bank can schedule video or in person appointments with one of its 2,100 private bankers.

Clients receive investment advice via its Model Portfolio Service, which gives access to a selection of actively managed portfolios. To join, you must have an annual income of more than £250,000, or investments and savings of more than £500,000.

Santander also offers a premier service called Santander Select for £4 a month, available to customers who have £75,000 in savings and investments with the bank, or an income of at least £5,000 a month.

This gives access to a phone helpline available 24 hours a day, exclusive savings rates and discounted will writing and lasting power of attorney services.

With both you must deposit £500 into the account each month and set up two direct debits.


People with £250,000 or more in savings and investments or a mortgage of £750,000 with the bank can access its private banking services, where they have a relationship manager to call direct to discuss accounts and investments.

Customers can receive advice on services including will-writing and filing a tax return. The Premier account is £28 a month and is only available to existing customers.

Lloyds offers a fee-free Premier International account too, which includes global travel insurance and fee-free international payments. Customers get a premier banking relationship manager and phone line available Monday to Friday, 7am to 11pm.


HSBC offers private banking for those with investments or borrowing of more than £1.5 million. They are assigned a relationship manager to advise on wealth and succession planning and investments.

Customers are eligible for premier banking if they have an annual income of at least £75,000 and a mortgage, investment, life insurance or protection product, or at least £50,000 saved with the bank.

For this, members receive family travel insurance, a premier account manager and exclusive mortgage and savings rates. There is no monthly current account fee.

Metro Bank

For those who do not want to pay for a bank account and do not qualify for premier or private banking, Metro Bank is a good high street option. It was crowned the best bank in Britain for its in-branch customer service, in a Government survey last year.

When asked which of the UK’s biggest 16 banks participants would most recommend to friends and family for its in-person services, the challenger came out on top.

Metro Bank has 76 branches in locations such as Oxford, St Albans and Reading, and its branches are open seven days a week, typically from 8.30am to 6pm.

It offers a variety of premium accounts as well as private banking. And unlike other high street giants, the bank says it does not have plans to close any more of its branches in the next year.

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