Under my byline

Background cheque

Posted in Living by Rrishi on 8 February 2009

Ill-gotten gainsIt’s not so easy, even for a millionaire, to get wealth managers to pay attention

Recently I came into a massive inheritance: stacks of blue-chip shares, still valuable after the crash, but still in paper form, and prime commercial real estate in two cities. I am now among those lucky few whose net worth is in the millions of dollars.

With this pleasant fiction in mind, I cold-called various providers of private banking and wealth management in search of advice and indulgence. It wasn’t an altogether reassuring experience.

At Client Associates, someone promised to call me back in one hour, but did not. At Reliance Capital’s number in Mumbai, the first thing I heard was an un-euphonious “Hallo? Yes? Yes?”, and then a promise to have someone call me from the Delhi office “tomorrow”.

I wasn’t able to get through to Citibank’s Citigold wealth management in Gurgaon — the number was engaged.

The best response was from ABN Amro’s Van Gogh Preferred Banking. Yet the rep on the phone seemed a little unprepared — I was put on hold thrice while she worked out that I didn’t have an ABN Amro account, and finally she put me through to a “service manager”, with whom I was able to run through my short list of questions.

A savvy friend had told me to ask about such exotica as structured and unstructured products; whether they would put my money in equities, mutual funds, fixed deposits, bonds, real estate, or whether they handled just one type or a limited range of products.

The ABN Amro lady told me first that I would get a “dedicated relationship manager”, then that they partnered with mutual funds — diversified, equity-linked, savings and fixed-term are the words I remember — but, oddly, that they would provide online access for me to tweak my own portfolio. Well then, what’s the relationship manager for?

As to whether they were outperforming the market: “In the current market scenario it’s purely subject to market risk.” She suggested safe, long-term options — and decided that I needed an investment banker. One would call within 48 “working hours”. Then she told me my “request number”. Rather naff, I thought, to give a millionaire a request number.

Net result: I didn’t feel special. In every case I was deferred. What for — a background check? In no case did the person at the other end inspire particular confidence.

When I’m rich, I think maybe I’ll manage my own money.

Score: 4/10, although it’s hard to judge without putting my money where my mouth is.

(Another Mystery Guest column. See previous one.)

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