So you'd like an open-ended bridging loan? If so, don't imagine that private banks like Hoare & Co will provide them without proof of a fat deposit account.
If your bank promised with great solemnity never to foul up another standing order as long as you maintained a minimum current account balance of £2,000, and put £100,000 in your deposit account, you'd probably tell them to take a running leap. However, around 90,000 people in the UK bank on such terms. They place their faith in private banks.
Of course there's far more to private banking than the cost of having someone take more care over the little things. If you wear a Rolex and prefer your designer labels to be on the outside of your clothes, you'd surely get a frisson from pulling out an antique-looking cheque book issued by a bank most shop assistants had never heard of. If you like being bowed and scraped to, the idea of a top-hatted chap opening the bank's door might have its appeal. Or how about getting a bumper open-ended bridging loan over morning coffee?
These banks are not full of generous fools. Indeed, you probably wouldn't have an account there if they didn't have a firm idea that you were good for what you were asking. In fact for them, borrowing their money is probably a less important part of the equation than lending them yours. If you are prepared to pay that little bit extra for your cheque account, then you very likely have an awful lot extra in your deposit account, or in shares, gilts, unit trusts, insurance bonds, and so on.
What most private banks are looking for is the chance to help you manage your liquid wealth, with plenty of unction applied by your very own relationship manager. You'll call him to set up your council tax standing order, and the reason you'll get a manager-level person to do that is because the bank expects that the next time they hear from you, it will be about your maturing £50,000 deposit. Maybe you should put the funds into your £200,000 stock-market portfolio? Feel free to add some noughts.
And this is the sort of business these banks can make some real money on. All of them will offer you at the very least the facilities to transact this kind of investment business. Many will offer you full-blown advice too, or take the whole thing over on a discretionary basis. That's where you give them the discretion to make investment decisions without specific reference to you, although, as with other financial advisers, they will already have had a serious discussion with you about the investment strategy you want to follow.
Private banks are normally circumspect about what you have to be worth to get them to take you on, and in fact the rules are not written in stone.
For a start, they would like to get your kids on to their books, even if you are Mr or Mrs Meanie when it comes to allowances. If you're not the son or daughter of a customer, but they think you show promise of getting into the £100,000 a year bracket, and you've got as much charm as they have themselves, you might swing an account with them. But if you've reached your earnings zenith, then £100,000 a year and free assets of around £100,000 too, is probably the lowest hurdle you'll be offered. Ask for a top tier account at Citibank, and they're blunt about the £1 million deposit minimum requirement. Lloyds Private Bank will let you in for less than a tenth of that, but your account will be run from a high-street branch.
If you do think of going 'private', take the time to survey the market carefully. The utterly unique Hoare & Co (older than the Bank of England and still owned by seven working descendants of its founder) isn't so big on the asset management side but probably runs a pretty mean current account. If you spend months at a time abroad, Citibank's global presence and expertise in international transfers may be just what you need. Adam & Co, a newcomer (founded 1984), probably has the most contemporary feel and the biggest client entertainment budget. And Coutts, perhaps the most expensive, may well have the highest staff to customer ratio. It also has a surprising 24, soon to be 30, branches here and plenty more overseas.
They will need a few new customers to pay for those.