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Insights | March 03, 2023

What’s the difference between “small” and “boutique”?

There are small independent shops and there are high-end boutiques. We associate them with different clientele, service offerings and client experiences—and as a result, different levels of revenue. 

But an important question, particularly for the small shops looking for change, is how do two operations with similar capabilities become so divergent? That’s when it’s helpful to look at another distinction: the way these firms present themselves. 

Without the backing and name recognition of a major bank, many independents fall into the trap of patchwork branding. Whether it’s convenience or cost, they end up with a variety of components of average quality and little overall cohesion. Their clients may be aware of the true value of service and they may be completely trusting in the abilities of the team. But what about anyone they refer?

On the other hand, an elevated and polished outward brand can quickly send the message that this firm is a step up, not only from others of similar size, but also from the bank environment. It can create feelings of exclusivity and privilege among those who are considering becoming clients. 

Instead of seeing you as a team providing basic services with a relatively limited offering, any new introduction will see you as a highly qualified group of professionals providing a more specialized and in-depth service than even their larger competitors. How they perceive you can make a real difference when you’re targeting the kinds of clients who have significant wealth and complex needs.

So if you were to consider your firm from the perspective of a high-net-worth individual whose primary means of judging your operation was your outward brand, what would the verdict be: “small” or “boutique”?

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