For high-net-worth individuals (HNWI), finding the right bank is of utmost importance. When managing such large sums of money, even small variations in returns, fees, rewards, and benefits can make a significant impact. For this reason, most big banks maintain self-contained departments that cater strictly to HNWIs with exceptionally large account balances. These special banking divisions employ the sharpest minds in the industry to manage the wealth of HNWIs, and they offer a host of services not available to traditional clients, such as a dedicated wealth management representative, concierge banking, discounted mortgages and perks and rewards on credit cards.
The Two High-Net-Worth Accounts
Two of the oldest and most well-known banks in the United States, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Wells Fargo & Company (WFC), each offer private banking services to account holders who maintain balances above certain thresholds. Chase offers their Private Client Banking, while Wells Fargo has named their program The Private Bank, calling individuals involved Private Clients. The programs are strikingly similar; both feature mortgage perks, higher yields on certain deposit accounts and more personalized service, yet subtle differences exist between the two banks, most notably Wells Fargo imposes a $1 million account balance minimum to become a private client, while the minimum balance at Chase is only $250,000, only requiring $100 to open.
Mortgage perks offer a boon to HNWIs, as such customers tend to purchase much more expensive real estate than the average bank customer. Moreover, many HNWIs are wealthy at least in part because they invest in real estate, meaning it is likely that they are juggling multiple mortgages. For these reasons, going with the private banking division that provides the best mortgage services is a prudent move.
Chase Private Client: Chase offers private banking customers discounted mortgage interest rates of varying levels based on the customer's total deposits and investments with Chase. These discounted rates apply to fixed-rate mortgages for the life of the loan and to adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) until the first adjustment. Private banking customers also receive a $750 discount on closing costs. Their loans close faster because they receive priority processing and access to a special senior underwriting team. Interest rate discounts for Chase private clients apply to home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) as well as traditional mortgages.
Wells Fargo Private Bank: The mortgage rewards for Wells Fargo private clients cover different territory. Like at Chase, clients receive special interest rate pricing based on deposit account totals. Private clients with an existing mortgage who make a large lump-sum principal payment have the option to recast their remaining balance. This process adjusts the amortization table for the remaining term and allows more of each subsequent payment to go to principal versus interest. The bank's cash purchase option enables customers to take advantage of cash-only real estate deals and still finance their purchase. The buyer pays cash for the property, and can then apply for a mortgage with Wells Fargo within 90 days. With good credit, a private banking client can purchase a property with a jumbo loan and put only 10.01% down.
High-net-worth individuals are equally as concerned about protecting their wealth as they are about growing it, and how a bank handles existing wealth is an important consideration.
Chase Private Client: At Chase, private clients receive wealth management services from JPMorgan. These services include financial advisory services, mutual funds, securities-based lending, annuities, and college planning, which includes tax-advantaged 529 plans. Private banking clients receive a private client advisor and access to the firm's global strategy and global solutions teams.
Wells Fargo Private Bank: Wells Fargo private clients receive personalized wealth planning, investment management, trust services, and private banking. Additionally, clients with unique assets, such as small businesses, oil, gas and minerals, and investment real estate, enjoy access to hands-on management from experts in these niches.
Although most HNWIs live frugally, others make money to spend money, and what a credit card can do for them is something that can be used to pay themselves back considerably if used correctly.
Chase Private Client: Chase offers access to their Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which offers a $300 travel credit annually. They also offer their Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which collects 2x points on travel and dining worldwide.
Wells Fargo Private Bank: Wells Fargo offers them The Private Bank By Invitation Visa Signature, which earns three points per dollar spent on travel, two for dining and one point for all other purchases. Like most other HNW cards, it carries no annual fee, and the perks extend the more you spend.
Chase Private Client services offer a dedicated Private Client Advisor to assist with planning and executing investments. On the flip side, Well Fargo offers only a contact form to fill, and a bank representative will call you to discuss. On their webpage, there is plenty of information about what you can invest in, but it does nothing to assuage the worry or add the kind of comfort and guidance a beginner investor might look for from their bank.
While both banks offer an abundance of benefits for HNWIs, it comes down to the specific services that a client feels can provide the most benefit. A client heavily involved in real estate investing who is in frequent need of creative mortgage financing should look to Wells Fargo. Meanwhile, those who actively trade stocks and concern themselves more with the brokerage side of a bank's business may be better off with JPMorgan Chase.