In this era of online dating, you’d be forgiven for thinking that finding love has never been easier — but this might not be the case for the 1 percent.
Indeed, the dating problems of the super-wealthy was an untapped gap in the matchmaking market, according to Mairead Molloy, who set up an elite dating agency which charges up to $100,000 to help the rich find love.
“These affluent individuals were looking for love in the wrong place,” Molloy, global director of Berkeley International, told CNBC.
“My clients want to meet someone with a certain wealth, from a certain family, who is well-educated – but they were struggling to find them. You don’t find these sorts of people in your average bar.”
The agency’s website says it offers an “exclusive, discreet introduction service to find perfect partners and soul mates for our discerning and affluent members.”
Membership costs between £10,000 ($16,000) and £60,000 ($100,00) each year – somewhat more than mainstream dating websites that typically charge members under £250 a year.
It is certainly tapping into a booming market. According to a survey of Americans by dating website Match.com, the average singleton spends nearly $61.53 a month on dating related activities, or $738.36 each year.
With 111 million singles in the U.S. alone, this means the dating industry in North America alone is worth $82 billion. But you won’t find any profiles or pictures of potential partners on Berkeley International’s site.
“We interview every single client – we’ll travel to meet wherever they are in the world,” she said. “There’s no profiles or photographs – we connect the people ourselves; it’s very personal.”
The agency’s sales pitch appears to be working. Berkeley International already has eight offices across Europe, and is in the process of opening four more in Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.
‘Expectations are higher’
Indeed, the fact that the agency offers this long-distance dating is part of its appeal, according to Molloy.
“Someone in Geneva will happily date someone in Dublin,” she said. “Expectations are higher – people will travel to get what they want.”
The most expensive membership package covers a global service across all of its offices, psychological profiles and a dedicated service from Molloy herself. “It’s more of a personal relationship concierge,” she said.
Over the last 12 months, Berkeley International’s membership base has grown by nearly 40 percent. The agency does not reveal the names of clients but says high-profile CEOs, tech billionaires and various other “very high profile” individuals are among its members.
“These people have lots of cash to spend, and are choosing to spend it on finding someone who’s right for them,” she said. “They’re investing in themselves and their future.”
If a member is looking for a specific set of characteristics (their “wish list”) and Berkeley International does not have a match on their books, Molloy will go “headhunting” in an effort to find the perfect match.
But Molloy was quick to point out that once a couple had agreed to meet, this meeting was no ordinary date.
“You’ll get collected by their driver; go to an exclusive location. This isn’t the sort of date where you meet outside the train station in the rain,” she said.
—By CNBC’s Katrina Bishop.Follow her on Twitter @KatrinaBishop and Google