I set off some time ago to determine the difference between luxury and ultra-luxury. My quest was to determine where advisors can send clients that are so over-the-top they belong to a category unto themselves?

I quickly realized that it’s not necessarily the stuff advisors are providing their clients with. Yes, it’s the best suite at the top hotel, exactly when the client intends to stay there because telling them, “No,” is not an option. It’s not always the most premium seat in an airplane, since the super wealthy often have their own jets. Rather, “ultra-luxury” is about the 24/7 attention to detail, the hand-holding, the decision-making and the sheer grit it takes to ensure an uber-affluent client gets everything they want and when they want it.

Ruthanne Terrero
Ruthanne Terrero

One chat with Karen Schueller, the managing director of Frosch Private Client Services, who is profiled on this month’s cover, will disavow you of any doubt about what it takes to work with an ultra-luxury clientele. These folks are used to getting things done the way they want to get things done, so aligning one’s self with that dictum is imperative if you’re going to survive working with this niche. I was struck by Schueller’s sense of responsibility when a Private Client Services member tells her precisely what they want to do on a trip and in her heart she knows they are not going to enjoy the experience. She says it’s her role to take charge and steer the client in the right direction, all the while respecting what they were trying to achieve in the first place.

Aside from the constant vigil of tending to clients’ needs, an ultra-luxury advisor is all about getting their A-listers access, and that doesn’t mean just getting to the front of the line for a popular exhibition. For example, many of Schueller’s clients will fly anywhere for a significant cultural event — because that’s what they do — all the while knowing she’ll get them in, no problem.

One aspect of her job that I would just love is proactively researching cultural events or opportunities across the world that would suit her clients’ passions. It doesn’t have to be a blockbuster, it could simply be a showing of some very important art, or a unique concert that is rarely performed.

One secret to Schueller’s success (and there are more in her profile) is to be respectful of travel partners, no matter how urgent the need to secure space is. Another secret is one that every travel advisor should heed: “Listen to your client,” says Schueller. “Learn what they like, and what they don’t like.”

This is an art unto itself but in the end, knowing the nuances of your clients’ tastes so well will enable you to serve them better. It will also help you to make the necessary spur-of-the-moment decisions on where they should stay as they are jetting into a city or pulling their yacht up to a Caribbean island. Listening to your client and knowing their boundaries and their passions will make you incredibly valuable to them and will also make your job a lot more fun in the process.

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