Arabel meets Global Director of Berkeley International, Mairead Molloy, one of the world’s leading relationship experts.
Mairead Molloy is a bit of a whirlwind. She arrived at Heathrow less than an hour ago from her base in Cannes and buzzes into Boisdale of Belgravia. She’s blonde, attractive and full of energy, with a strong Irish (Wexford) accent. I offer to buy her a drink, “No I won’t… Oh go on then, I’ll have a Gin and Tonic, but only one.” We are meeting to discuss dating but not the online sort – that’s for the masses – this is something entirely different.
Berkeley International is a highly specialist company, offering bespoke introduction services. Its clients are really after two things. Firstly they want quality and results (they are after all, paying for the service) and secondly, they require discretion and confidentiality. I start by asking Mairead who the typical client might be, “Our clients lead happy, busy and fulfilling lives. They are perfectly able to manage on their own but have reached a stage in their life, where they no longer choose to do so. They are, however, not prepared to compromise in their choice of partner. Meeting just ‘anyone’ is not their problem – meeting the ‘right’ person is.”
All well and good, but hasn’t the digital world changed the game – surely there’s an algorithm that now exists for finding Mr (or Mrs) Right? “That’s a very different market and a different kind of service. We are a people company and believe in face-to-face communication.” I can tell quickly why clients might respond well to Mairead, she’s a great communicator herself; we covered more ground in twenty minutes than I can manage with most friends in an entire evening! I asked how she’d developed this intuition for relationships, “A degree in psychology was a good start, (she also has an MA in International Criminal Law), and asking the right questions. Ultimately matchmaking is all about perceiving what drives an individual to seek our help, understanding what features are important in a future relationship and knowing how to select matches with the highest potential to provide the perfect partner and soulmate. It is wonderful to reflect on the numbers of successful matches, marriages and even a few Berkeley babies.”
The process intrigues me, does it require a huge disclaimer (!) it can’t work the first time, every time and there must be some disasters? “We try and minimise those! We start by inviting clients to come to our offices for a meeting, to find out about them but also they find out about us; that’s really important. We have to be sure we can work together and that there’s some chemistry. We then hand-pick a potential match, before calling each respective client and telling them about one another – assuming they both agree on a date, numbers are exchanged. We tends to operate a five-year rule, five years older or younger, for the simple reason that it better serves the goal of achieving true compatibility. The next day feedback is given and we base the subsequent match on that feedback.” There must be a few misadventures along the way though, tales of unrequited love and calamitous first dates? “Hush, hush Anabel, not a word… ever!”
I ask Mairead if there has been a piece of matchmaking she was particularly proud of? “Our global service works like a dream. I’m packing my bags again this week, for a quick visit to New York to meet a (successfully matched) client for dinner. It’s is great to see very busy travellers turn their lives around and settle with someone they love. We don’t pay enough attention to ourselves – I notice people not making any time in their lives – there always seems to be a meeting or a pressing email. Life is too short, we are trying to reduce the stress of dating and add happiness to people’s already very busy lives.”
Mairead herself leads a pretty busy life; I first met her in Home House, no doubt a bastion for her prospective client base of lawyers, bankers, entrepreneurs and showbiz types. She has offices in Mayfair, ironically Berkeley Square, although there is no connection to the company name. “I’m in London two weeks a month, I travel globally as we have a lot of clients who do the same for their work, I’m all over the place!” But Cannes is her home, where she is lives with her husband Luca, a leading French Chef, she speaks the language fluently. “He has nothing to do with the agency. We were introduced on the street by a mutual friend, he was coming out of his restaurant and I was coming out of the hairdresser. The French are not like the English or Irish when it comes to asking people out and going out on dates… they are far more dramatic!”
I end our interview by asking Mairead what the future holds for Berkeley, more of the same? “We acknowledge the large emotional investment that is made when clients sign up and we want to honour this by conducting our matchmaking with empathy, intuition and passion. I can only think our kind of business will expand, as we all become more anonymous – I truly think social media has made us a bit lonely.” The company is almost 15 years old and with established, growing offices in in Paris, Milan, Geneva, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Germany and Spain, it would appear Mairead’s instincts are right. Interestingly, slightly more men apply for membership than women. Whilst I’m not quite ready to sign up myself (frankly my freelancers’ salary won’t let me!) I can quite see the appeal for those time-poor, affluent, singletons. A few of Mairead’s colleagues from London join us later (we didn’t stick at one G&T) and they too are all great characters. Clearly Mairead hires people she knows will see the vision through and maybe it’s her Irish roots, but she believes in the fairy tale ending – some of us just need a bit of help getting there.
If you would like to arrange a meeting with Mairead, or to find out more please visit: www.berkeley-international.com