MARCH 2019

It seems in this busy word we live, a society of cash-rich and time-poor people, the current craze is to have your own concierge. Think of a hotel concierge, but at the end of your phone, in-app or email and on-hand 24/7 365 days a year. Someone to help manage your busy life from ordering flowers or taxis to getting you into exclusive venues and events. You only have to google "concierge company" to see hundreds of companies offering their services at prices from a few hundred to many thousands of pounds per month. But there is a cheaper way to do it - often a free way to have your own concierge. The current trend with premium bank accounts and credit cards is a dedicated concierge. Many of these are free for qualifying clients (ie the rich) or cost a nominal fee.

As a freelance reporter, my inquisitive nature took over and I wanted to road-test a few of these, see if they are worth all the hype, how good they are, if they can get me things I cant get, and which is the best. My tactics were simple, I identified the top 4 premium banking services or credit card that offered a concierge, find friends/accomplices who were members, and then send them all the same enquiries and analyse the responses.

I chose three enquiries that i believed would be frequently asked by clients - these being:
  1. To book me in to a leading restaurant that i knew was fully booked at my required reservation.
  2. To find me tickets to the upcoming baseball series
  3. To let me know of any cool events going on this weekend in London
I would send the same enquiry to all 4 concierges. I would measure their response times, quality of their responses, prices, client service, and my overall experience.

Firstly I had to choose my 4 concierges - and these were chosen as HSBC Premium, Barclays, AMEX and Revolut. The first three are well know and are amongst the biggest banking or card companies, while the fourth is the new kid on the block, currently taking the world by storm, and has just launched their new metals membership. Below are some details of the concierges, how you join, costs, who runs them, and how they advertise themselves.
hsbc jade concierge review supplied by quintessentially

HSBC Jade Concierge

Launched: 2016

Price: free

Eligibility: Maintain a balance of £500k+ in cash/savings/investment, have a private bank relationship with HSBC UK.

About the product: HSBC Jade is designed for our most valued clients. As a Jade client, you’ll have access to HSBC’s experienced Jade Relationship Managers and superior banking services. Jade not only offers you unique benefits, but also enhances your current banking relationship allowing you to focus on what matters the most to you.

Website: https://www.hsbc.co.uk/current-accounts/products/jade/

Who supplies the concierge: Quintessentially – https://www.quintessentially.com/ - Quintessentially Lifestyle is a members-only luxury lifestyle management and concierge service. The New York Times called Quintessentially Lifestyle, "The company that transformed the idea of concierge services into 'lifestyle management.'" It provides Corporate Solutions and Private Memberships that include preferential rates on hotels and other reservations, access to events, luxury gifts, and other services. Globally, the firm employs more than 1500 Lifestyle Managers in over 60 offices speaking 35 languages. Turnover - 100million USD per year / Members 250,000 and employees 1500.

Concierge brochure: click here

What Quintessentially say: Our teams of dedicated Lifestyle Managers are armed with an unrivalled network of connections, as well as access to generally-inaccessible experiences, around the world. They will be available to you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to manage everything from practical issues and time consuming tasks to complex planning. With specialist teams in Art, Health, Education, Property, among others, in more than 60 cities around the world, we are ready to assist with all-important life decisions and to provide you with remarkable, personal customer experiences.

barclays premier concierge as supplied by ten lifestyle review

Barclays Premier Concierge

Launched: 2012

Price: free

Eligibility: £100,000 savings or investments with the bank; or annual income of at least £75,000.

About the product: Barclays Wealth and Investment Management was the first to launch a lifestyle service to its UK clients in 2012. The bank organises regular events for its clients, ranging from front-row seats at London Fashion Week to private dinners in the Churchill War Rooms. 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge™: Around-the-clock availability via phone, live chat and email, Luxury Card Concierge will assist you with travel bookings, various personal requests and more. The Concierge is available to every Cardmember 24/7 with no hidden fees. Our dedicated agents provide a complete lifestyle management tool tailored to each Cardmember’s specific needs, ensuring you save time and enjoy exceptional service.

Website: https://www.barclays.co.uk/premier-banking/

Who supplies the concierge: Ten – https://www.tenconcierge.com/  - Ten Group is a British lifestyle concierge (also known as lifestyle management) company founded in 1998 by Alex Cheatle and Andrew Long.  Ten Group listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange (AIM: TENG) in November 2017. During the roadshows, Ten raised £18 million valuing the Company at £104.8 million. Institutional investors currently include Soros Fund Management and Lombard Odier Asset Management.  Past investors include Old Mutual Asset Managers. Alex Cheatle remains the largest shareholder.

It has headquarters are in London. Ten currently has a headcount of over 800 full-time staff around the world, servicing its members in more than 26 languages. The company's service offers 24/7 access to expert lifestyle managers who can advise on and book travel, top restaurants, and entertainment including music, theatre and sporting events worldwide. Ten has more than 1.6 million registered private and corporate individuals. Its clients include Visa, OCBC, RBS, Citi, Barclays, and Coutts. Turnover - 100million USD per year / Members 250,000 and employees 1500.

Concierge brochure:

What Ten say: We have been at the forefront of exceptional service for over 20 years. Our mission is to be the world's most trusted service platform. Since 1998 we've combined always-on, personalised, premium, and specialist knowledge - with world class expert-led customer service - and continuous innovation in technology. Today, we serve millions of members in 52 countries around the world, working with more than 50 corporate partners, from over 20 offices located in the most important wealth centres.

concierge service for amex platinum card review

AMEX Platinum Concierge

Launched: 1984

Price: free

Eligibility: There are no published salary requirements in order to qualify for the American Express Platinum, but, the more you earn the better. If you make near $100,000 a year and have good credit, you should have no issue getting approved.

About the product: The company was founded in 1850 and is one of the 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average The company is best known for its charge card, credit card, and traveler's cheque businesses. In 2016, credit cards using the American Express network accounted for 22.9% of the total dollar volume of credit card transactions in the US. As of December 31, 2017, the company had 112.8 million cards in force, including 50 million cards in force in the United States, each with an average annual spending of $18,519.

In 2017, Forbes named American Express as the 23rd most valuable brand in the world (and the highest within financial services), estimating the brand to be worth US$24.5 billion. In 2018, Fortune ranked American Express as the 14th most admired company worldwide, and the 23rd best company to work for. They employ over 55,000 staff and have a revue of 33.5 billion.

Website: https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/charge-cards/platinum-card

Who supplies the concierge: AMEX have an in-house concierge team, they do it all themselves. And they obviously have the resources to do it.

Concierge brochure:

What AMEX concierge say: Our Concierge staff is available to you day or night as a personal resource for many different aspects of your life. Whether you need to select a restaurant and arrange the details of an upcoming special event or if you want expert advice selecting just the right gift, you can rely on Concierge to coordinate and take care of your requests, big and small.

revolut metals card concierge supplied by sincura review

Revolut Metals Concierge

Launched: 2018

Price: £11.99 per month

Eligibility: Anyone can join.

About the product: Revolut is the tech giant that seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment, offering banking services including a pre-paid debit card. Valued at over $1.7 million is it a unicorn crowd funded company. As of February 2019, the company claimed to have over 4 million users. The metals product was introduced in 2018 and members can Enjoy an exclusive, first-class experience that includes a contactless metal card, earning up to 1% cashback, a dedicated concierge service, and way more.

Website: https://www.revolut.com/introducing-revolut-metal

Who supplies the concierge: The Sincura Group – www.thesincuragroup.com.  Founded in 2014 by Tony Baxter and Tara Leers, they offer concierge and lifestyle services in London and worldwide for private and business clients. From priority reservations at the most exclusive restaurants to luxury travel planning, VIP tickets to sold-out events to exquisite domestic services, we have it all covered A much smaller company but making big waves, they are the winner of Concierge Company of the Year at The London Lifestyle Awards and other clients include Covent Garden, London. Their turnover is less than £3 million per year (but that is pre Revolut, so it will be interesting to see how this has changed the structure) and they say they are shaking up the concierge industry, priding themselves on being the most technically advanced concierge in the world, and having the best client reviews exclsuive access.

Concierge brochure: read here

What Sincura concierge say: The Sincura Concierge was founded on three simple principles:

  • Being the best connected, our global contacts allow us to obtain the unobtainable.
  • Offering a private and personal one-to-one service to our members.
  • Being fair to our clients by offering the best priced concierge service on the market.

Other concierges boast that they will acknowledge a request within 3 hours – well we don’t believe that’s good enough. On average it takes less than 2 minutes for a client to receive an email acknowledging that their request has been received, viewed, loaded and allocated to an expert to start working on. We close 30% of requests within 10 minutes, 60% within 3 hours and 99% within 1 business day. We openly publish our feedback as we are proud of what our clients are saying about us. We are the only concierge confident enough to do this and be judged by our clients.

using a concierge to book a restaurant reservations
hsbc barclays revolut and amex request for restaurant booking

Restaurants seem to be the most sought after request for any concierge - so it’s a good place to start. I chose one of the most popular restaurants in London (I won’t name it here but it was one that I have struggled with on numerous occasions and is famous for how difficult it is to get a reservation there). I chose the prime booking, for 2 people on Saturday night at 9pm during peak service. Obviously i couldn't make 4 bookings on the same night at the same time, so I chose 4 consecutive weekends, and checked online first to make sure there was no availability showing for those time. I didn't expect to get my reservations, but i expected to be offered other restaurants and suggested alternatives, or other times. I put the request in at 5pm each day which would give them 4 hours lead-time to process and manage my request.

Here were my findings:

Quintessentially (suppliers of HSBC Jade): 10 minutes after I sent my request I received a personalised email back from a concierge that the request is being worked on. Roughly 40 minutes later I received mail saying that the restaurant was fully booked at that time but they offered me a time slot 2 hours later, or a selection of alternatives. The alternatives where not to the same standard as my previous, they hadn’t thoughts about cuisine and price points but seemed to send me a generic list.

Ten Lifestyle (suppliers of Barclays Premier): I immediately received an automated message through the app that my request had been submitted. But then the waiting started. And it went on. And on. After 2.5 hours I had still not heard anything so I asked them what was happening. They then send me a number of options, though they couldn’t get the restaurant I chose they offered me alternatives which were reasonably similar plus their recommendations of the best restaurant in London.

AMEX – via their inhouse concierge: After 30 minutes I received a message to say that they could offer me a table 2 hours later and also sent me some very good alternatives, which were very close to my original spec.

The Sincura Group (suppliers of Revolut): 2 minutes after I sent my request I received a personalised email back from a concierge that the request is being worked on. Less than 20 minutes later I received a confirmation to say that my booking had been made – though it was 15 minutes later at 9.15pm.

Overall: Revolut (aka The Sincura Group) make a bold claim on their concierge feedback page (https://revolutadmin.com/revolut-concierge-feedback/) that “ In the same time it takes other concierges to acknowledge your request for a restaurant reservation, with us you should be booked in, sitting down, and enjoying the dinner we have organised for you.”. Quite simply that is correct – I don’t know how they did it but I was very impressed. Though none of the others completed the request exactly, they all offered me different options, with differing successes. I would say AMEX gave me the best alternatives.

concierge query for tickets to london events
hsbc revolut barclays concierge request for tickets

Where do you go if you can’t get a ticket for a sold-out event? You can navigate the minefield of resellers like StubHub and Viagogo and run the risk of your tickets not turning up or being turned away at the door for fake or illegally sold tickets.

Most concierges have a ticket department that take all this worry out of your hands – and can offer ticket to either sold out events or events not on public sale. I tested this with the London baseball series which was coming to London, and put the request in before tickets went on general sale. I wanted to see which concierges could offer me tickets before the hit the public domain.

Here were my findings:

Quintessentially (suppliers of HSBC Jade): I had an answer after 2 hours which included hospitality options only for both matches of the series. They also informed me of when general tickets would be going on sale.

AMEX – via their inhouse concierge: This took a little bit longer, it actually took me 24 hours to get the answer, and they offered me hospitality options only for both matches of the series.

Ten Lifestyle (suppliers of Barclays Premier): they didn’t send me any options of tickets and said that they couldn’t book tickets on my behalf. Instead they told me to go to the MLB website and register and then told me when the tickets go on sale. They then wished me good luck in sourcing my own tickets !!!!

baseball_ten

The Sincura Group (suppliers of Revolut): I received my answers within 5 minutes which included hospitality options for the matches, plus options for general ticket before the public sale.

sincura concierge revolut baeball tickets

Overall: 3 concierges offered me the tickets, and all the prices where much the same for the hospitality. Only one, Revolut, offered me general tickets which were inflated from face value, but this is guaranteed tickets before general sale. Ten Lifestyle didn’t even offer me tickets, and were the only company not to do this, and then told me to go and find them myself!

things to do in London this weekend as recommended by hasbc concierge, barclays concierge, revolut concierge, amex concierge
whats on city guide sincura, ten lifestyle, amex, and quintessentially

Every good concierge should know what going in their core city – so this was the obvious choice. I sent a request in at 10pm on Friday night saying that I was looking for cool this to do this weekend with my girlfriend, can they let me know what is going on.

I wanted to check their response being outside core hours, and the selection they gave me. They should have picked up on the fact that I was with my girlfriend, offered me a multiple of choices, and rather than generic things (such as go to the Tate Modern gallery) I was looking for events that were actually running on that weekend. It showed they spent more time researching rather than just giving me bulk answers.

Here were my findings:

Quintessentially (suppliers of HSBC Jade): I had the answer back first thing on Saturday morning – and it gave me a comprehensive list of 10+ things including shows, gigs etc. all going on that weekend and they included their “things to do in London” guide with pages of the best events. Very impressive guide and covered anything a tourist would need.

AMEX – via their inhouse concierge: Very impressive – I had an answer the same night. Again they gave me a comprehensive list of 10+ things including shows, gigs etc. all going on that weekend  and they included their London city guide, which, though not as good as quintessentially, was still substantial.

Ten Lifestyle (suppliers of Barclays Premier): I got my answer back on Monday and it wasn’t tailored to the weekend at all. And the weekend had been and gone. And the answer included a 4 page “things to do in London” what included such things as go to the National Theatre.

The Sincura Group (suppliers of Revolut): I got my answer back at midday on Saturday, and it included things going on over the two days. It was the comprehensive guide of events – broken down by day – and included events that no-one else had. They didn’t give me a general London city guide which would have been nice – but they gave me a link to a weekly guide which changes on Monday of each week with the week ahead for your city (http://news.thesincuragroup.com/weekly-newsletter)

Overall: All of them replied and this time AMEX stood out above the rest with speed and details. I like the city guides for both AMEX and HSBC – very useful if visiting a city that you get the city guides. This gives you a broader range of options. I like the rolling news calendar online with Revolut – though in fairness you do get a less comprehensive version of this with Barclays through the app. But Ten Lifestyle  dropped the ball massively here when they didn’t even reply to me until Monday following the weekend.

final thoughts about the best concierge out of hsbc amex revolut and barclays
final thoughts on the best credit card concierge

Like any industry, the concierge seems to drive one or two big players. And more-often than not these big players prove disappointing. And that was certainly what I found with Ten Lifestyle and to a lesser extent with Quintessentially. These guys are massive, and they must get a huge amount of requests, so it understandable. You feel like they just want to get your request closed, out of the door, and move on to the next one of their huge lists of requests.

Ten were by far the worst when it came to response times and quality of responses. They didn't go that extra mile, and sometimes didn't even go the yard. I understand that banks want to offer a concierge but Ten Lifestyle made me more frustrated than not having one at all.

AMEX faired better, and this is mainly due to the fact they have an in-house team. they don't rely on others and the concierge are hired and fired by AMEX. Its their job to make people happy or they literally lose their job - and AMEX is a veritable moster of a company in itself.

Then we look at Revolut. These guys are thinking out of the box, they are doing things differently, and pushing boundaries. It was a risky move in hiring a minow of a company in pond of sharks, but no more than their risky billboard adverts that hit the press (see below).

revolut billboard

But it has paid off massively. They have a concierge that seem to care about every client, that have incredible turnaround speeds and impressive access.

I love the fact that all the branding ties in - rather than receive a mail branded with ten Lifestyle or Quintessentially at the top, it has all the branding of Revolut with a bouncing R Concierge bell at the top. Very curtesy, and you have to look deep within the mail to see that this is not actually from Revolut but from a third party. It keep all the branding in place.

It will be interesting to see how the next few years go with Revolut concierge, at the moment they are head and shoulders above the rest but you have big players like N26 card who will be entering the market, and surely they will soon release their concierge.  Plus it will be interesting to see how Revolut use their concierge in markets outside Europe and Australia where Sincura do not have the market presence that the big boys have. I look forward to seeing this space, and whether any other small companies will follow SIncura's footsteps and rise to the top of the pond to fight it out with the sharks.

Email me at jhigginswb@gmail.com