With so many ways to meet a prospective partner for free it might seem strange that expensive introduction agencies still exist at all.
From internet dating to smartphone apps such as Tinder, which links up to your Facebook account, or even just chatting people up in the pub on Saturday nights, there are a multitude of inexpensive ways to try and find love.
However Berkeley International is unashamedly bucking the trend. Rather than catering to the mass -market, its eye-watering memberships fees make it one of the most expensive dating agencies in Europe.
While the rest of us might be feeling the pinch of austerity Britain, it seems that those lucky in finance but unlucky in love are still prepared to fork out for the chance to date people as rich and successful as they are.
While you might have thought that people would be put off by the hefty membership fee, which starts off at £10,000 and go up to £60,000, founder Mairead Molloy says that the number of people on its books shot up by 35 per cent last year.
‘People are even more willing to spend money now because they feel vulnerable, and it’s better to have two of you feeling that way together rather than being totally on your own,’ she says. ‘It’s bad being rich and single but it’s even worse feeling poor and single, so people feel it’s an investment worth making.’
Berkeley claims to have FTSE 100 company chief executives on its books, as well as financiers, global tycoon and even several celebrities. And it’s not just older, rich people who are forking out for Berkeley’s services, says Mairead, but people in their thirties and younger.
‘There are lots of young lawyers and bankers who sign up with us,’ she says. ‘They want someone who’s professional and going places.’
The company was founded 15 years ago has offices in Cannes, Paris, Brussels, Melbourne, Geneva, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan and New York as well as its headquarters in London, and plans to open in Hong Kong and Los Angeles next year.
Basic membership starts at £10,000 a year, will get you as many dates in the UK as you want, unlike other agencies which restrict you to one every six weeks or more.
‘For £10,000, you’d expect an unlimited number of dates,’ said Mairead with refreshing honesty.
Paying out £15,000-£20,000 will cover Europe too, so you can fit in some match-making while off on holiday or during business trips, and £50,000 gives you your pick of partners across the world.
For £60,000, you get the personal care and attention of Mairead herself, who will not only travel the world in search of your perfect match, but will point you in the right direction when it comes to working out what has been going wrong for you in the past.
‘I’ll give them my insight into why they are still single, such as if they have particular fears or concerns, or maybe commitment issues, or if they’re at a certain age and yet still looking to meet people without children which might be very unlikely,’ she says.
Every new member comes in for a chat with the Berkeley team, so that matches can be made on a personal level, rather than by means of an online profile. As for Tinder, Mairead gives it very short shrift.
‘Oh, I hate it, just hate it!’ she says. ‘It’s crazy, it’s so impersonal, people just whizz through, going delete, delete, delete, making snap judgements – it’s horrible. You’ve got to take time to get to know someone.’
Berkeley claims some impressive success rates, with Mairead saying that women under 30 have a 90 per cent chance of success with them, while women in their 40s who still want children have a 60 per cent chance.
However Mairead, who says she is constantly out head-hunting partners for members in ‘the very best locations, all the chi-chi bars and clubs in Mayfair and the City,’ says that she can’t guarantee matches for everyone.
‘I can promise that you will get to meet the people most right for you that we can, but I can’t make a person conjure up a particular feeling – I can’t promise chemistry.’