Having consulted to the super-rich for nearly two decades now, I've witnessed things from the ridiculous to the sublime, and one of the most interesting subgroups-which never fails to surprise-is known simply as the Fringe.

Lest you think the Fringe is a euphemism for a group of dysfunctional outsiders, it's not. My experience with the Fringe has been principally through what can best be described as global multifamily office structures. They are large, private and tightly controlled. They want to grow through investment performance and alliances with like-minded organizations. They prefer to conduct business and source deals with known entities that have passed extraordinary security and background checks. For the most part, members of these multifamily offices are well-regarded, super-successful individuals and families that control enormous amounts of wealth and are active in their local and international communities. And like most extremely wealthy people, they value discretion in their personal and professional relationships. This emphasis on privacy and exclusivity means both the offices and their clients are, by design, outside the mainstream.

But operating out of the spotlight is just the tip of the iceberg for the Fringe. One thing that further distinguishes the Fringe from more conventional multifamily offices and private wealth organizations is the overriding eroticism and decadence that permeates their corporate culture. Additionally, the executives in the organizations and the member families share a degree of personal moral flexibility that adds a layer of pleasure to their relationships.

One organization that squarely fits the definition of Fringe controls roughly US$20 billion with "headquarters" in Hong Kong. From its female chief executive on down through the female-dominated management ranks there is a fundamental belief in the principles, techniques, training and use of tantric sex. Another example of their focus on eroticism is a defining membership experience called the Play of Seven Knives. This is an esoteric "treatment" administered by a professional known as an Adept in seven stages over the course of several months-to the tune of about US$2 million. The treatments include a unique combination of baths, massages, potions and knives that are hand-crafted just for this purpose; the unremitting prospect of being cut adds intensity and prompts an array of enthusiastic responses from those who experience it.

Another multifamily office that can be considered part of the Fringe is based in England and oversees more than US$17 billion in assets. Their primary claim to Fringe status is an annual member event cryptically referred to as The Gathering. The location of the affair rotates among the organization's real estate holdings, including castles and villas throughout the European continent. To ensure privacy and confidentiality, attendance is strictly controlled through a formal invitation process, a thorough investigation conducted in advance on all guests and the use of biometric identification systems. The Gathering is a highly anticipated event for the super-affluent members of this multifamily office and always has superb world cuisine, vintage wines and spirits, and performers such as acrobats and dancers throughout the grounds. The only requirement is that guests wear masks-and many choose to wear nothing else-and feel free to observe, participate, explore or experiment with other receptive guests, the toys and games provided by the staff, in orgiastic group activities and the many impromptu performances that occur over the multi-day event.

The Fringe exemplifies the secret worlds that are occupied by those at the pinnacle of the financial pyramid. For them, this is an insular environment-created and fed by serious money-where they can play hard and fast and the "rules of conduct" are flexible. In this world, the inhabitants have more in common than their socioeconomic status; they connect on a sensual, sexual level that allows them to coordinate their extensive financial resources and personal connections for their own amusement and enhancement.