Well-to-do and well cared for

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Voltaire once said that if a Swiss banker fell out of a window you should follow him, since there was sure to be money on the spot where he landed. The seriously rich (ie eight figures) who wish, equally seriously, to avoid paying tax, would bank at Pictet or Lomard Odier in Geneva.

Old money goes to private banks in Britain such as Child, Hoare and Coutts, all of which date back to the seventeenth century (and pre-date the foundation of the Bank of England in 1694). They are, in essence, relics of the days when the landed aristocracy still had serious money.

Coutts: 19 branches, founded in 1692. Staff, who must be clean shaven, dress in white collars, waistcoats, black shoes and frock coats. In theory, customers need a minimum income of about pounds 100,000 plus assets of pounds 150,000, excluding property, though these requirements are flexible: for example, Etonians get a Coutts account more or less as a matter of course.

Within Coutts is Villiers, the Queen's own branch, and probably the most exclusive bank in the world.

A close second to Villiers is Campbell's, Coutts' bank that specialises in HN-WIs (High Net-Worth Individuals). Customers must keep pounds 10,000 in a current account to avoid charges. Among its clients are MPs, pools and lottery winners, pop and sport stars.

Child and Co: one branch only, in Fleet Street. Client managers, of whom there is one for every 150 customers, offer the ultimate in personal service by scanning the announcements pages of The Times and the Daily Telegraph and taking note of their clients' marriages and other happy events.

Hoare and Co: two branches. Founded by Richard Hoare in 1672. Staff still sign themselves "your obedient servant", and cheque books have a sheet of blotting paper at the front. Its black credit card holders have rolled gold edges. Customers need to maintain a minimum cleared credit balance of pounds 1,250; otherwise current account charges are pounds 7.50 a quarter and 65p per entry.

Adam and Co: five branches. Founded in 1984 to cater for Edinburgh's well-heeled. The typical account-holder is a successful business person on about pounds 50,000 a year. Minimum assets of pounds 250,000 are also required, though this is negotiable.

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