Home / News and Insights / Daniel Martineau shares his experience of working with UHNWIs over 30 years.


Reflections on providing great service: “Be helpful, be reliable, be relatable.”

Daniel Martineau, non-executive Chairman of our Swiss business, recently addressed CityWealth’s Wealth Professionals Club in Geneva, sharing the lessons he has learnt over 30 years marketing to Ultra High Net Worth Individuals.

Daniel is one of the founders of Summit Trust International and former Head of Trusts of Coutts Bank in Switzerland. Daniel is also a founder of the Swiss Association of Trust Companies, a member of the editorial committee for Wealthbriefing, an on-line wealth management news service and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences.

Here’s what Daniel had to share:

“The first thing that I would like to address are the characteristics that I think are required to meet, service and please the UHNWIs. The three characteristics that occur to me are:

  1. Be Helpful

  2. Be Reliable

  3. Be Relatable

Be Helpful

When I moved to Switzerland, I saw at close quarters the famous Swiss private banking service and what I noticed was that Swiss private banking had very little to do with banking! Prior to coming to Switzerland, I practiced banking in Canada, Bahamas, Channel Islands and saw that what Swiss bankers did better than anywhere else had very little to do with banking! They arranged for their clients to be picked up at the airport. They arranged lunches and dinners – sometimes in private dining rooms or in their homes. They arranged for hotels, for schools for their children, for buying watches and jewellery, for private showings of auction sales, for yachts and private jets, for doctors, for cosmetic clinics – almost every facet of life aside from banking. Oh yes, they might speak about the performance and holdings in the portfolio for an hour or so, but the quality time that they spent with their clients had very little to do with financial services. So I would say please do not limit the ways that you can be helpful to the strict services that your company provides – whether that be trusts, banking, investments or accounting – I would encourage you to become a source of help to your clients in all facets of life.  Be helpful!

Be Reliable 

What I noticed about seriously wealthy people is that they are working all of the time. Even as they grow older – many of my clients are over 80 – they do not retire and they have no sense of a “normal work week”. They are passionate, driven individuals who work pretty much all of the time. If they are not on the telephone or in a meeting or travelling for business, they are thinking about ways to make money. They think about ways to make money in their sleep. When they want to speak to someone, they pick up the telephone. They don’t think that it might be Friday night or Sunday morning – they are thinking, or worrying about something and they want to talk to someone about it. If it is you that they want to speak to, then you are blessed to be amongst the people that they have confidence in and respect and want to hear what you have to say about what they are thinking. If you are in that blessed relationship, then you need to be available. I have never used an out of office message on email. Don’t worry, your spouse will get used to it! The fact is that very few people in my experience abuse the situation, but if they want to speak to someone, you need to be there, or someone else will be! Be reliable!

Be Relatable

You need to be able to relate to your client and his/her family, and that means that you will need to be comfortable in their world. It means that eventually they will be your friends rather than your clients. But to get into their circle you will need points in common; it may be their business or their hobbies. It might be their sports or their family. I found that having a family yourself is a big point in common with prospective clients. Particularly in the Trust business, I found that having a family means that you share some of the same ambitions and concerns, some of the same joys and the heartaches. Your client’s most important success in life will be that of his family – he/she will want to make sure that they are looked after and he will want to be sure that there are professionals who can be relied upon to take care of their family. Be relatable!

So those are the three characteristics that I think will help you build a reputation and a relationship with UHNWI client base – Be Helpful, Be Reliable, Be Relatable.

Build Networks

Once you have built those characteristics and the reputation for those characteristics you now need to build your network.  What I noticed 30 years ago was that there were really only “50 people who mattered in the UHWNI business”. I should say first that the UHNWI business and the Private Client business are composed of a number of disciplines – Bankers, Investment Managers, Accountants, Lawyers and Trust Managers – but the greatest of these are the Private Client Lawyers. In my experience, the lawyers are at the top of the food chain. They are the most plugged-in participants in the UHNWI business and the best route to new clients. In my experience, they stick to their knitting and happily work in multi-disciplinary teams with Accountants, Bankers and Trustees. They are therefore much more willing to share contacts and make referrals as long as you are what they consider to be a safe pair of hands.

So, I noticed that we were always running into the same Lawyers, the same Accountants, the same Investment Managers at the highest strata of the Private Client business. It might be an exaggeration to say that “there are only 50 people in the world that matter” – there may in fact be 100 or 200 – but the point of my story is that there are not that many – and that you should know who all of them are. Because by knowing who they are, the chances are better that they will know who you are and that knowing all or most of these people will be one of the most important steps to validating your own reputation.

The way that you know these people is by working with them (when you have the chance) and if you or your firm are not yet in that circle then you need to raise your, and perhaps your firm’s, brand awareness. When we started our business, Summit Trust was an unknown brand. In fact, we first started as Close Trustees as a Joint venture with Close Brothers in the UK, however we bought ourselves out of the Close Brothers Group in 2008 and rebranded as Summit Trust in 2011 and if industry awards are any measure, the Summit Trust name has become one that is well known in Switzerland, the UK, Europe and throughout the offshore world.

Building a brand meant getting out to events such as this often. We went to every drinks party, reception and event that was going. We made ourselves aware of which of the top 50 might be at the events and made sure that we would introduce ourselves to them. We spoke at conferences, wrote for magazines and wire services. We sat on panels and participated on industry organisations.

Once you know well the top 50 people in the industry, you may well be one of them!”


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