| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 1 Financial advisers at Morgan
Stanley, one of the world's largest securities brokerages, do
not typically arrange clients' European vacations.
But when an ultra-high-net-worth client was planning a
family meeting in Tuscany, Deanna Rodriguez, Morgan Stanley's
director of lifestyle advisory, did everything from reserving a
villa that sleeps 20 to planning the family's sightseeing
Rodriguez, one of two registered brokers at Morgan Stanley
employed to provide full-time concierge services, is part of a
broader trend of wealth managers offering luxury travel
arrangements for select clients.
"I'm not your Cunard Cruise girl. You can get that from your
American Express Platinum," Rodriguez said. "We get called in
because there are a lot of moving parts and it really needs to
go off like a corporate event."
Travel services are unusual at the large U.S. brokerages
known as wirehouses, but several independent broker-dealers like
HighTower Advisors have begun to offer in-house travel and
concierge services because demand is growing.
Firms that offer in-house concierges provide more than just
travel assistance. They may also help in arranging insurance and
licensing for staff at a vacation home or appraise tangible
assets like fine art.
In 2014, Rodriguez expects to provide travel accommodations
and these other services more than 1,600 times, up from 1,397 in
2013 and about 1,000 in 2012.
The value proposition is hard to turn down: Who better than
a trusted adviser to mitigate the financial risk of luxury
"We saved one client $10,000 on center-ice tickets to the
New York Rangers (hockey) playoffs," said Paul Pagnato, partner
of the Virginia-based HighTower group Pagnato-Karp, whose firm
employs two full-time concierges. They helped one client jump a
wait list to get last-minute New Year's Eve reservations at the
Four Seasons in Maui and have assisted clients in the purchase
of private planes.
George Papadopoulous, an independent, fee-only financial
planner near Ann Arbor, Michigan, coaches clients on how to
maximize hotel points and airline miles through rewards credit
cards and a software program called Award Wallet.
Papadopoulous, who estimates he has 3.5 million frequent
flyer miles and manages more than 100 different hotel and
airline rewards accounts for himself and his family, said travel
advice is one way he distinguishes himself.
The industry "is changing and we're trying to differentiate
ourselves to become more valuable," he said.
Rodriguez, Pagnato and Papadopoulous all cautioned that
these services are not right for every client. For Rodriguez,
the ideal user of her services has substantial wealth, a dearth
of time, and appreciation for travel with a purpose.
She recently planned a five-day, $56,000 trip to the
Galapagos Islands for a father who wanted to encourage his son
to use their wealth to support environmental causes.
"Part of it is economic, but the biggest part is educating
the next generation," she said.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Linda Stern and