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14 Jan 2021

Aide in Chelsea: life as a PA to a HNWI, London

Sam Cande
Aide in Chelsea: life as a PA to a HNWI, London

Hi Raju, tell us a bit about yourself: Who do you work for? What does your role entail? How long have you been there?

I work for an UHNWI and his extended family as a Private PA / Chief Of Staff.  They are primary based in Bahrain & Saudi with regular London visits as they have vast business interests in the UK.  Their house is Based in Chelsea and I work from their household and also their Private Family Office.  They consist of a generation of extended families such as parents, siblings and cousins.  The Arab family world are very close knit, hence I work for the main Principal & the extended family.

The work entails many things on a day to day basis.  Currently they are abroad during the lockdown for obvious reasons and staying in their in respective countries, however when they are here, day to day consists of jobs such as: Personal shopper duties in Harrods, Westfields, Local boutique shops, holiday management such as sourcing private bespoke holidays, private jet booking, admin work, occasional errands of picking up kids from school, property management of their portfolio- the list actually goes on but they are the main duties.

I have been there just over 4 years, prior to that I was working in finance and banking and the lifestyle/concierge industry was something I was passionate about and got my dream job which consisted of multiple rejections to land this beautiful job with this family with zero experience, but I was determined to get the job I dreamed of. 
What are your greatest challenges in your role?
Prioritising and communication - Sometimes 2 principals will tell me to do something at the same time and their both urgent, therefore I have to assess which one is more urgent.  Other times they will send me a voice note of something however instead of telling me the full A-Z context, they will tell me M-P, I have to 'guess' everything else, which is frustrating as I end up asking questions back when it can be done in one hit.  Therefore, I would say you need ALOT of patience in my job as you will pull your hair out!
What kind of training have you received? Personal or skills training?

I actually haven't received any formal level of training to be honest, but to be honest I have never needed it, my job is to get things done, therefore I basically get it done- that's the nature of my job.  The formal qualifications are great to have and I wouldn't say no to it, however for the nature of what I do, I use initiative and logistics to get the task done.  I also come from a finance background anyway from my previous roles in the bank, so this part also helps me do my job
What kind of budgetary responsibility do you have? Where is your greatest expenditure?
I am quite lucky in the sense if I feel the family need something, whether it's a product or a service, I just need to tell them how much it is and why I think it's worth buying, therefore I can sign it off, e.g one of the apartments they own doesn't allow for air con units to be fitted due to alternations in the facade of the block as you would need to put an outlet outside, so I suggested this substitute which cost I think it was £18,000 to fit 'air con' inside their apartment.  I told them about it and they were happy to go ahead with it.  Now we are slowly installing this product within other apartments in the same block as they own quite a few within the same building, the total will cost will exceed £100,000 for the 'air con' units - I have full authority to sign these off.

Another is hotel stay in London- when the extended family come, some of them don't own apartments in London whilst others do, it's my job to source a hotel for them based on their needs.  Last year a family came for I think it was 7 months in middle of year and I had to source 3 x apartments for the family to stay in.  Prices ranged from £700 a night to £1200 a night for pent house suites and I had full authority for sign off which I did.

I also source apartments to buy, whether that's via a video call or sending a proposal, recently I sourced a property which cost in excess of £2m and I had full sign off based on my recommendation to buy in this specific location- although I told them first about the price, their took my recommendation and got the sign off.
What advice would you give to other assistants when it comes to doing your job well?
I would say patience and be mentally strong.  It can be very demanding with different arrows being shot at you, unless you are strong minded and have the patience, the job will eat you alive, it's very fast pace specially in the summer when they all come at the same time.  You have to be ready on your toes and be 1 or 2 steps ahead of them at all times.  Nothing will go to plan, it's just life, however this is where your logistics come in and you have to be ahead of the game at all times.

What does the PA Show mean to you?  
To be a member on the panel is an honour! The industry does lack male voices and I hope me being a male in an ethnic minority group (British Bengali) working as a Private PA / Chief of Staff brings awareness to this industry as its unheard of generally.  I am excited to be on board to meet likeminded professionals and share my journey and help others excel in their plan.  I hope I can share some value from my experience thus far and also gain some new value from the other panellists / participants stories/journey/advice etc.

Find out more about The PA Show Advisory Board here

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