Bunhill: Banking on Uncle Sam's jet set

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The Independent Online
BANKS are running out of customers. Their churn rate is high, their loyalty is low.

So says Robert Pasley-Tyler, merchant banker. His observation is hardly new but his solution is novel. He will shortly open what must rank as London's most exclusive club. Only Americans with a net worth of dollars 5m need apply.

Called Pasley-Tyler, it is next door to Langan's in Stratton Street, Mayfair. Downstairs it has all the trappings of a club, with drawing room, comfy armchairs and sofas. Upstairs, Pasley-Tyler, new merchant bank, is hard at work.

The idea is that members over here on short business trips and holiday visits will use the club's facilities - and, if they want, climb the stairs for financial advice and assistance. The club will supply them with everything they need for their stay - phone, fax, desks, limousine, cash, hotel and travel booking, sport and theatre tickets - while the bank can help them with their business and get even richer. What he is doing, he says, is a throwback to 200 years ago, when merchant banks grew out of trading houses.

Membership of the club costs dollars 940 a year. This week, Pasley-Tyler is off to the US, drumming up business. Why dollars 5m? 'We want high net worth individuals. But within that we're flexible.' Not that flexible. 'I wanted the original limit to be not less than dollars 10m, but dollars 5m will do. Who would argue about dollars 5m? It doesn't make any difference.'

And all American? He himself is half-American, and besides, 'we didn't want Brits, they would go bankrupt'.

But 18 years flying round the world as a banker in the international division of Kleinwort Benson has also taught him that underneath their rich exteriors, millionaires are a tight bunch. 'There is nothing more mean than a man down to his last dollars 70m,' he says.

The club's 1,500 members will make it, he claims, the largest booking agent of top hotel rooms in London. If all his members come to London for four nights a year, that makes 6,000 nights - in a market where anyone looking for 400 is doing big business - and that excludes their partners.

Any discount will go straight to the members. 'Our job is to squeeze out the middle men and deliver real value. You've no idea just how much of a lever 1,500 like-minded people working together can be.'

He will be applying for a banking licence and Fimbra membership shortly, and he has the financial backing of respected friends - 'they're all bankers, no rubbish'.

(Photograph omitted)