Clubs offer the ultrarich safe spaces to talk money with financial equals.

Author: Craig Mellow

Multimillionaires need friends too, maybe more than most of us.  That is the idea behind Tiger 21 and a few other firms bringing the sharing economy to the ultrahigh-net-worth set. “One of our members told me, ‘I want to be in a room where I’m not paying everyone else in the room,’” says Barbara Goodstein, Tiger 21’s New York-based CEO. “We’re that room.”

The Tiger 21 space is not for everyone. The entry requirement is $10 million in net worth, and the average is $100 million. It’s also not the only such group. Manhattan-based Metcircle Networking has added subgroups in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, since its founding in 1991. Membership in Boston’s CCC Alliance—established as a joint effort (“by families, for families”) of the family offices of the Corning and Pitcairn fortunes in 1994—is strictly limited to wealthy individual investors and their families. Some clubs allow advisers or business memberships as well.

The format harks back to the pre-digital age. At Tiger 21, for example, for $30,000 a year, members meet one day a month in groups of 10 to 15, based on geography and common interests (angel investing or teenagers at home, for instance). Mornings are shaped around a theme like emerging health-care technology or estate planning. In the afternoon one member presents his/her portfolio in detail, and peers critique it. The interchange can get quite intimate. “People have shared information about an impending divorce before the spouse knew about it,” Goodstein recalls. Such intimacy requires a high level of trust, and these clubs have strict rules about confidentiality, pitching and poaching. 

Goodstein, a former wealth management executive at JP Morgan Chase and French financial services giant Axa, sees this gold-plated peer-to-peer network as a complement to, not a replacement for, her ex-colleagues’ work. Tiger 21, currently at 437 members, has to stay small to maintain its extended-family feeling, and members have conventional bankers as well. “This is not about whether or not you have a wealth manager,” she says. “It’s about having access to the best minds and opportunities in the financial area.”

These clubs now usually include a digital component, a sort of super-LinkedIn where insiders swap investment ideas or try to find jobs for their children. But the pressing demand, at least at Tiger 21, is for more direct contact, Goodstein says. An annual conference, with speakers—from legal defense legend Alan Dershowitz to junk bond inventor Michael Milken—gets packed to overflowing, and members are pushing for more social events like the planned excursions to Israel or Iceland.

The super-rich may be lonelier than the mass affluent, and have more free time. “A lot of our members may have just sold a business and feel isolated,” Goodstein observes. Their craving for human warmth is a positive sign for traditional private bankers. People still need people. 


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