Credit Suisse-Backed Social Network for Super, Super Rich Is a Go

Invite-Only Club for Billionaires and People with Net Worth in the Nine Figures

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The homepage for a nascent social network intended for the very wealthy.
The homepage for a nascent social network intended for the very wealthy. Credit: Clade.co

An invitation-only social network for very high-net-worth individuals is moving forward, according to people familiar with the effort.

A team within Credit Suisse was working on the idea late last year, then under the name Eleven, for the investment bank's address at 11 Madison Avenue in New York City. It has since spun off as an independent company with the new name Clade, Credit Suisse as a minority owner and wealthy investors who are likely to also become members, the people said.

They declined to identify Clade participants or backers beyond Credit Suisse.

Clade is meant to be a place for billionaires, and some people with net wealth in the nine figures, to partner on investments, philanthropic ventures and deals related to art and culture, one person close to the effort said, calling it a "velvet-rope investment club for the wealthiest people in the world." The term clade describes a branch on the tree of life or a group of people who have commonalities.

Jonathan Lipton and Jan Oliver Koelble both held senior roles at Credit Suisse until recently, and are now listed as co-founders of Clade & Co., according to their LinkedIn profiles. WPP-backed agency The & Partnership is working on the project, including the branding and user experience. Credit Suisse didn't immediately respond to request for comment. The & Partnership and Mr. Lipton declined to comment.

Eleven was originally an attempt by Credit Suisse to stand out among other financial institutions, which can be "very stodgy," the person close to the effort said. "Banks don't innovate."

One person likened Clade to Signac, Credit Suisse's month-old joint venture with compliance and data firm Palantir to identify rogue bankers, positioning both as non-orthodox approaches to modernizing the bank's operations, offerings and appeal.

But the Clade separation mitigates risk to Credit Suiss's reputation if the social network fails. After all, no established bank has succeeded in creating an in-demand social network for the ultra-wealthy.

One person likened Clade to Signac, Credit Suisse's month-old joint venture with compliance and data firm Palantir to identify rogue bankers, positioning both as non-orthodox approaches to modernizing the bank's operations, offerings and appeal.

The move comes as financial institutions reach out to younger, self-made millionaires and billionaires. For banks, that means finding new ways to attract and keep clients who invest differently than their parents, according to one study of millennials by Merrill Lynch's Private Banking and Investment group. New digital products have been one alternative to traditional advertising.

"A full 72% of respondents describe themselves as being 'self-directed' in their investing, with 41% reporting having no financial advisor of any kind," according to the survey of 153 investors between the ages of 18 and 35 in 2013. A majority of respondents reported investable assets in excess of $3 million, and 28% said they have more than $10 million.

Clade is developing partnerships within the luxury and art worlds, according to people familiar with the matter.

According to the trademark filing for Clade, goods and services could include social networking, auctions, business management and consultation, fundraising and investment advice, and brokerage services for art, wine, jewelry, cars, boats, yachts and other luxury items. A trademark filing for the original Eleven Group included similar descriptions.

The network, and its online social platform, could also serve as a place where the world's wealthiest rally around their political agendas. "That's the 800-pound gorilla in the room, especially this time of year," said one of the people close to the project. The network doesn't plan on restricting its members' uses, added this person.

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