Outrageous demands

Outrageous demands
Above: Braised Superior Shark's Fin soup from Tien Court

SINGAPORE - Tourists are not the only ones making big demands - wealthy Singaporeans are no strangers to making outrageous requests, either.

A growing number of Singaporeans are making use of private concierges here for requests ranging from the expected - booking concert tickets or securing hard-to-get reservations at restaurants overseas - to the unusual.

Mr Andrew Quake, general manager of Aspire Lifestyles Singapore, a provider of concierge services here, recalls: "A businessman had a meeting in Shanghai and before boarding a plane to come back to Singapore at 8pm, he called to ask for 1,000 white roses to be sent to a girl in Shanghai by midnight.

"We tapped our contacts in the city to gather what roses we could from each florist and managed to source for 1,000 roses to be sent to the girl by the deadline."

With Singapore being among the top 10 cities in the world with the most number of millionaires - and projections that there will be 291,000 millionaires living here by 2017 - there is strong potential for the market for personal concierge services, says Mr Quake.

Aspire does not deal directly with individual clients, but works with credit card issuers, banks, luxury brands, airlines and hotels to extend concierge services to top-tier clients.

"In recent years, we have seen an increase in wealth management banks partnering luxury lifestyle concierge providers to offer unique and personalised bespoke services to their clients," says Mr Quake.

Aspire was set up a year ago and is under the umbrella of three-decade-old global medical and travel security services company International SOS.

International luxury lifestyle group Quintessentially set up its concierge services here in 2007, when it found "a gap in the market for personalised services targeting high net worth individuals", says Ms Anastasia Ling, managing director of Quintessentially Lifestyle Singapore. It works with both corporate and individual clients.

The demand is strong because high-net-worth individuals are typically time-starved and constantly on the go, she says, adding that most people call in for help with "day-to-day" issues, such as giving recommendations or making reservations.

She adds that it also helps corporate brands create customer loyalty with their top spenders. "With the luxury industry being very competitive, offering a personalised service such as a concierge to their top tier clients helps them stay on top of the competition by differentiating their offerings," she says.

Requests they have received range from the mundane, such as retrieving a Nintendo hand-held console that had been left on a plane, to the bizarre, such as finding an edible life-sized cake costume for a birthday party.

Mr Quake says among the most outrageous requests Aspire has received was an 8am phone call from a client in Singapore, requesting that a latte be delivered to his girlfriend's office within the hour - in Seoul.

Getting to work immediately, Aspire's team in Singapore coordinated with its counterparts in Seoul and got a hot latte onto the client's girlfriend's desk by 8.40am with a Post-It note with the client's message: "As promised".

While Aspire Lifestyles declines to reveal its pricing, an annual membership with Quintessentially starts from $7,700.

Other concierges here, however, cater mainly to individuals. Ms Dawnn Erieanna Tan, head of a concierge service here called Personal Concierge, says most of her clients are wealthy individuals, primarily overseas, who need personalised services carried out here.

The company charges by the hour and prices range from $150 to $500 an hour. Ms Tan adds that the firm gets more than 100 ad hoc requests a year, but has just 15 clients on an annual membership plan, which starts from $18,000 a year.

She believes there are fewer than 10 private concierge service providers in Singapore.

The most unusual request she has encountered is a recurring one from a Singaporean couple living in London.

For the last three years, they have requested that the concierge service arranges for piping hot bird's nest soup to be sent to their elderly parents on special occasions.

Ms Tan says that those who use concierge services are rarely sensitive to price and are more concerned that things should be done exactly as they want them to be.

"Clients are very choosy and look for people they can trust rather than how much they are charged. So, once they find one that they trust, they rarely change," she says.

This article was published on May 25 in The Straits Times.

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