UK club Quintessentially Lifestyle goes the extra mile for clients

Quintessentially finds the mainland's growing ranks of super rich are shaping the spending patterns in the high-end consumer market

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 5:27am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 5:37pm

From organising a surprise marriage proposal at short notice to sending children to British boarding schools, the needs of the mainland's super rich can be as varied as they are hard to execute. And that is where Quintessentially Lifestyle comes in.

The British club, which provides luxury concierge services to its members round the clock, found the growing number of high-net-worth individuals had shaped the spending patterns in the top-end consumer market, said Greater China managing director Vincent Lai Kar-leung.

"The mainland's new rich want to start at the highest level, or the most expensive membership, but Hong Kong clients tend to start from the bottom," he told the South China Morning Post. "But we did turn down some mainlanders as we don't know them and can't invite them to the by-invitation-only top-level membership."

Despite the recent economic slowdown, the number of mainland billionaires continues to rise. By January, it had jumped 13 per cent to 358 from last year, the Hurun Global Rich List showed.

Lai said the club's mainland members were primarily entrepreneurs aged 40 on average whereas those in Hong Kong were mostly Western investment bankers or top executives at the age of about 35.

"Mainland members in many cases change their minds constantly whereas Hong Kong spenders are comparatively more rational and reasonable," he said.

He cited a mainland member - an entrepreneur who was attending a business party in the Philippines and suddenly realised he wanted gifts for his hosts. The member rang Lai's team for help one Friday afternoon, saying he needed gifts for 13 people with a budget of 20,000 yuan (HK$25,000) per head on the following day.

Lai's team right away arranged 260,000 yuan worth of accessories of a luxury brand and delivered them to the Philippines on the following day.

In another instance, a Shenzhen member suddenly decided to propose to his girlfriend one Friday afternoon and asked Lai's team to arrange the event. The team booked a five-star hotel for a dinner and then transferred them to another five-star hotel where the member proposed with 999 purple roses.

"We combed through all florists in Shenzhen for 999 purple roses," he said. "It was a demanding situation because of the short notice."

One thriving segment of the rising spending by the mainland rich was overseas education, Lai said. The latest data from the Ministry of Education showed the number of students studying abroad rose 3.57 per cent to 413,900 last year and Britain was the second-most popular destination after the United States. Australia came third.

Spending on overseas education was a 200 billion yuan market, including fees on agents, learning languages and living costs, Lai said. "Many of our members are willing to spend a lot on education for the next generation," he said.

He said many parents wanted to send their children to top British schools with no regard to their abilities. This was why the company, he said, met the children, evaluated their personalities, academic and language skills and aligned them with parents' expectations before picking the schools for them.

The company arranges language and etiquette lessons for admission interviews while helping pick home-stay and even apply for university later on.

"Hong Kong customers are generally more rational and will pick certain services, not the entire package," Lai said. "But our mainland clients tend to go the other way."

A full set of Quintessentially services can cost at least HK$150,000 per person, excluding expenses. In contrast, the 50,000 education agents on the mainland charged between 15,000 yuan and 60,000 yuan, data from the Ministry of Education showed.