Bunhill: A bank for the favoured few

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The Independent Online
WALK down London's Grosvenor Street, past number 49, blink and you've missed it. A Georgian house and a nameplate, Barclays Private Banking.

The bank, which opened two months ago, looks like a typical elegant Mayfair residence from the outside. Inside, it is all thick carpets and antique furniture, a world apart from your high-street Barclays.

You need pounds 500,000 in 'investible assets'- cash and things that can be sold - before it will look at you.

The bank will manage your money and may issue you with a special cheque book. But, says Heather Maizels, its UK head, with a polite shiver, you can forget about an overdraft - the extent of her lending recently was a short-term advance to tide a client over at a Mayfair auction sale.

The idea of the bank is to manage family money down the generations. 'We're not like Coutts, a commercial bank offering a red carpet service,' says Maizels, sniffily. 'We're very low profile, very discreet.'

The service offered, she says, is the 'Total Wealth Approach'. She and her colleagues will move your money round the globe, keep tax bills to a minimum, try and get you the best return and write your will.

They will even open up for you on a Sunday if you want - she did, last weekend, for a client who was in London for a wedding and wanted to discuss his financial affairs.

The choice of premises, decor and location is deliberate. 'I wanted a house,' says Maizels. 'I wanted a house where the door is always open, between the Connaught and Claridge's, where people can say, 'why don't we pop in and see Heather while we're passing?'.' What was it Disraeli said about two nations?

(Photographs omitted)