Private Banking for the Uber Wealthy: Is It Worth It?

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Updated on Wednesday, April 17, 2019

If you’re a high-net-worth individual — a so-called HNWI — private banking is a must-have resource for managing your financial life. Among other things, a private banking relationship gives you an outside perspective on your financial decisions, helps you find investment opportunities and aids in the management of your assets.

But before moving forward with a private banking relationship, it’s important to recognize that this service may not be the best solution for your goals. Careful analysis of the services offered by a bank can help weigh the pros and cons of a private banking relationship.

What is private banking?

Private banking is a personalized banking experience, specifically for wealthy individuals, families and businesses. Typically, HNWIs with family or personal fortunes valued at $1 million or more make use of this service. These services nearly always include the services of a dedicated banker, who provides one-on-one assistance and financial advice to clients.

According to Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts.com, a LendingTree website, it is a service that really helps busy people cut down on time spent dealing with the minute details of banking, such as deposits, withdrawals, a change in address, or help with a new debit card.

Because these relationships offer such specialized attention, the service isn’t available to everyone. In order to qualify for this service, a potential client needs to have deposited a very high minimum amount — typically $250,000 to $1 million — with a bank, or simply possess a very high net worth in the millions, before they are considered for these services. According to Tumin, funds invested with a bank can be through assets, accounts, or a mixture of both.

Private banking perks

At its core, it offers standard banking services and solutions that are tailored to be quick and streamlined. Customers are able to contact their private banker on the phone or through email on their own schedule.

This easy access to simple banking services can be extremely helpful when it comes to the little details. Take, for instance, losing a debit card while traveling overseas. A private banker — for example, The Private Bank by Wells Fargo, which offers 24/7 support for their  customers — would be available to offer near-immediate assistance and expedite the shipment of the card.

Private banking also means fewer fees — this is another reward for big deposits. With Chase Bank’s Private Client service, checking and savings account fees, worldwide ATM fees and even fees on wire transfers are all waived. Chase Private Bank also allows higher deposit and withdrawal limits, access to a free safe deposit box and free personal checks.

This service also offers the option for multiple debit cards on the account so the entire family has access, as well as the ability to set spending limits. There are also options for new investment opportunities, and special access to competitive rates and discounts when opening new lines of credit. Some banks even offer financial planning to help grow your wealth.

Requirements for private banking

Bank of America

Bank of America Private Bank and Merrill Lynch both require a minimum of $250,000 in investable assets

Chase Bank

Chase Private Client requires an average daily balance of $250,000 or more. This can be through any combination of deposits and investments within Chase Bank

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo’s The Private Bank requires a minimum of $1,000,000 in deposits and investments

Citibank

Citibank Private Bank requires a minimum net worth of $25 million

Is private banking worth it?

If you are unable to meet the minimum requirements for private banking, don’t worry. Tumin believes that private banking relationships don’t provide much value overall, especially if the customer is required to maintain a high balance in a low-interest account.

“If you have $250,000 in a savings account, you might get a little extra boost of interest, but it will probably only be 0.1%. If that’s the case, you have to figure out if the loss of interest is worth the benefits,” said Tumin.

If you are required to maintain a high balance in a low interest account, Tumin recommends looking into brokerage firms which would be able to invest your money at a much higher ROI. “Someone that has a lot of wealth would be better off investing in mutual funds and ETFs through a brokerage firm. Plus, many also offer tax management services,” he said.

The rest of us aren’t missing out on much when it comes to private banking, according to Tumin. “Many banks offer free checking accounts, and high interest within accounts,” which means customers that don’t hit the $250,000 minimum can still reap some of the same benefits.

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