NEW YORK -- An eight-year bull market in stocks helped create more than 1.1 million new millionaires in the United States, and securities firms are trying to lure their business by pampering them with special high-net worth services.
At firms such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, wealthy investors have access to private equity transactions, sophisticated hedging techniques and every security under the sun.
Thomas C. Quick, president of the Quick & Reilly/Fleet Securities discount brokerage, is a Goldman client. "When you think of all we are doing in running a business, even though it happens to be an investment business, having the time to invest is really an issue," Quick said. In February, Quick received a profit of about $47 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents, from the sale of Quick & Reilly Group to Fleet Financial Group of Boston. "It's in my best interest to let someone who has the time, experience and resources maximize my dollars," said Quick. Twenty years ago, the wealthy clients of Merrill or Goldman were as interested in the red carpet treatment -- restaurant dinners and Broadway theater tickets on their brokers -- as the financial services. Those perks are still available, although today's clients have less free time. Many are entrepreneurs who took their companies public or executives with stock option plans. Goldman Sachs has about 360 professionals who cater to people with at least $5 million in liquid assets. David Henle, co-head of the firm's private client service, said that while there isn't a hard- and-fast rule about the minimum, Goldman does turn people away. Merrill's private advisory services are generally used by people with $10 million or more in assets. Those with less can also use them, by asking their broker which services might be appropriate. For Michael Sullivan, a broker who heads a 17-person team in New York that works with wealthy clients, the average is $50 million in assets. At Goldman, four- or five-member teams -- including two or more senior brokers, an analyst and assistants -- typically manage several family accounts. A key part of the high-net worth business is service. "Our clients don't want to be put on hold and don't want someone to get back to them 48 hours later," said Linda Daines, a senior Goldman broker. Though she typically works from 7 a.m. to about 7 p.m., Daines also takes client calls at home, even on weekends. In addition to attentive service and perks -- Merrill's high-net worth brokers will provide front-row tickets to a Knicks basketball game or hard-to-get reservations at hot New York restaurants -- customers have access to special investments and advice. …