You Rang Sir

By Amy Kilpin, Ship Management International Magazine

It`s 6.30am and your Blackberry alerts you to a string of high profile meetings and conferences that adorn your daily business regimen. A queue of international clientele awaits pressing phone calls, and a multitude of official forms and contracts pile almost as high as your six – figure salary.

The unadulterated pressure of executive responsibility casts a cosmic shadow over the menial duties of daily life – like laundering your socks or taking the rubbish bins out. Enter: Butler/ Personal Assistant/ Life Saviour , where all your trivial needs are seen to in tick – box efficient style.

Welcome to the exclusive world of the wealthy and the elite – a sphere untainted and uncharted by mere mortals, and where the absence of a personal assistant to pander to every single infinitesimal need is beyond comprehension. Standards of living are soaring to unprecedented levels to equate with the colossal influx of millionaires and billionaires gracing the face of the modern – day shipping industry.

Naturally, then, the traditional role of a butler is becoming a commonplace instalment in the demanding lifestyles of the financially – significant. As shipping freight rates rocket, so do the bank balances of those sailing in such financially – lucrative waters. But with this wealth comes an avant garde business lifestyle that demands more and more international travel and unwavering commitment. As a result, a new strain of luxury service is sweeping across the globe.

Contemporary living is witnessing a revolutionary transformation from common self – sufficiency to a tailored personal service of the highest degree. The day of the hire-by-the-hour butler has arrived.

The Calender Group, with offices in New York City and Connecticut , offers an elite domestic staffing firm for higher net worth individuals worldwide. Steven Laitman, Company Co – Founder , highlights how  modern needs extend far beyond the service of a household butler: “We provide comprehensive, high level, personal staffing services and handle the placement of Estate Managers, Household Managers, Yacht Managers, Chefs, Personal Assistants, Executive Housekeepers, Domestic Couples, Horticulturalists, to name a few.” Under the umbrella term `butler`, the company assignes an invaluable member of personal service staff to an extensive range of customers. Clients are leaders of industry , entertainment personalities and executives , and finance professionals whose backgrounds and locales span the gamut. We have also dealt with exceptionally wealthy individuals whose fortunes have been made in the shipping industry.”

However, the archetypal `Jeeves`, the literary butler character so vividly created by P.G. Wodehouse, is a far throw from modern expectations of butler services. Outmoded  duties  epitomised by the quaint relics of aristocratic England  such as polishing  silverware and tending to fireplaces, have rapidly been substituted by the management  of several international estates, and accompanying  assistance on vast private yachts and jet planes. The running of a mere household is now an absurd concept according to contemporary standards, with modern butlers now responsible for the very minutiae of their employee`s daily existence.

A survey conducted in cooperation with The International Guild of Professional Butlers based in the Netherlands, revealed that 81% of private service employees were responsible for the maintenance of multiple properties.

A long shot away from managing a single  substantial estate, it`s all about multiplicity and volume; society is unearthing whole new plains of wealth. A new generation of personal service has also been identified and the prerequisites of a butler have taken  on a fresh approach, as Mr. Leitman indicates: “Though  we still have many clients that expect formal service  from a traditional English – style butler, there are now many who have a more informal (albeit significant) residence and lifestyle.” He also highlights a general evolution in the personal service sector, as growth in technology breeds a new culture of necessity.

The rapid  pace of contemporary life is matched by an increase in the demand for continued assistence on every posible level; supreme wealth being the key ingredient . “There are definitely more `modern lifestyles` and as a result , needs have changed. Many of our clients have multiple residences  and travel frequently. As a result , the new generation requires much more flexibility , 24/7 availibility, blackberry `savvyness`and generally, less formality.”

Steven Ferry, Chairman of the International Institute of Modern Butlers, agreed, stressing that today`s butler needs to be machine – like proficient. The characteristic black tailcoat, distinguishing curled moustache and clipped English accent are now subsidiary to technological competency and industrious commitment. The modern butler is “more sophisticated and knowledgeable in a wide variety of executive skills, compared to his more traditional and constrained  predecessor. And far better paid. He is the equivalent of a CEO  of a medium – sized company, compared to the old role of a servant who did what he was told and displayed little initiative.”

Although a classically English phenomenon, personal service is in demand across the globe, with many institutions  expanding into the Middle East and the Pacific ocean. The Florida – based Modern Butler Institution accommodates  for an ever  – expanding  international client base, as revealed by Mr Ferry: ” We have offices  and affiliates in 10 countries around the world. Countries like Russia and the Middle East have great wealth and are catching onto the benefits of having butlers.

“With intercontinental  travel forming  an integral part of the modern executive`s existence; it has also had dealings with the SilverSea cruise line and numerous private yacht owners, catering for every corner of the niche lifestyle. It`s true – the gentleman`s gentleman is fast becoming a must – have in the lifestyles of the high and mighty, as the acutely rich elevate themselfes to a positively imperial  standard of living.

Brushing shoulders  with the monarchy is no less of an ordinary affair for Ivor Spencer, who is founder of the Ivor Spencer International School for Butler Administrators, Personal Assistants. Gaining butler placements in Royal homes, with Embassies, Heads of State, and some of the world`s wealthiest employees, Mr Spencer acquires more thab just a glimpse into the outlandish  lives of the ultra – affluent.

Notable for being invested in by H.R.H The Prince of Wales for personal butler service, Ivor also prides himself on the School`s eight or nine current butler placements at Buckingham Palace. In the age of prosperous modernity, butler service is in more and more demand, and Ivor remarks on such a prominent transformation, having been involved  in the industry for 27 years.

The traditional butler role has altered dramatically: “Butlers were poorly paid, and looked after their employee`s clothes, serving champagne, wine and food. Now they must run the home completely – we train our butlers to become a personal assistant. The pay is also much higher. Our butler`s wages start at about £45,000, but some in America and Hongkong are earning £100,000″.

He also notifies a revolutionary `new wealth` – a contemporary breed of uber – rich, suit – clad individuals with assets of mammoth proportion. ” Traditional requirements have changed. Aristocracy has gone now, and we serve mostly very wealthy business people who run their own jets and yachts. They are enormously rich”. Clients are also no longer  limited geographically:” As a very internationally recognised establishment, we are seeing many new clients from Russia and China,” he added. The popularity  of such private service is not strictly confined to landbased activity, however, “we deal with many ship owners and business executives  in the shipping industry, many of which are Greek clients with considerable wealt and prestige,” he advised.

On the flip side, Mr Spencer describes the lifestyle of a butler as somewhat privileged; a substantial salary being just the foundation of a relatively comfortable employment. Butlers are afforded luxurious accommodation, all meals and living expenses, and a car amongst other benefits – living a lifestyle of the rich and famous, for the rich and famous. In return, they must pander scrupulously to every whim of their employer`s, and it`s not necessarily always in alignment with convention: Whatever the employers want, we try to do it for them. One client in LA, an undisclosed film star, requested a butler of homosexual orientation , so naturally, we supplied him with one,”Ivor said.

With personal butler service so in vogue, and over 5,000 private butlers now employed in London alone, more recently – established companies such as are meeting the rising demand for temporary private service. Founder Sebastian Hirsch is based in London, and provides his diligent assistance at prestigious corporate events, including a recent commission in the Royal Closure at Ascot Races.

He reports as ” being introduced to aristocratic members of society, forging contacts with very powerful people, including CEO`S and Presidents of companies. It`s also a big big trend within investment firms.” Such a cornucopia of wealth in modern living renders the service of a personal butler a near – necessity, as Sebastian asserts: “It`s a status to have a butler , a measure of wealth. Also because people of such importance simply do not have the time to do things for themselves. It`s easier if you just hire someone else to do it for you”.

Contemporary wealth is married to ostentatious living, and it`s spreading  into an international phenomenon. ” There is a huge demand for this kind of butler service, and a substantial proportion are the `new rich`; often very wealthy clients from Russia and the Czech Republic”.

Aside from one eccentric request requiring a naked butler service, there are occasionally moments where optimum discretion is needed in cases where clients reveal rather inappropriate alcohol – induced honesty, Sebastian revials. He describes  the profession as being ” a jack of all trades”, with butler duties ranging from gardening, cooking  and shopping to designated secretary, driver and bodyguard. It`s a bizarre world  unexplored by the majority, and a continually expanding industry offering the elite classes status quo on a whole new dimension.

And if you really fancy yourself at the zenith of society, have your butler read this out to you.

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