For Advisers of UHNW Clients, Takeaways From a Billionaire Survey

MCF Intersection

A regular snapshot of the trends, news and research in the world of philanthropy — and its impact on business.


This past fall, Swiss banking giant UBS Group AG and global consulting and accounting firm PwC released their third annual report on the U.S. and global billionaire population. There are a number of interesting findings from the report that advisers working with ultra-high-net-worth clients can incorporate into their work in order to provide these clients with greater value.

First, billionaires are becoming increasingly involved as patrons of the arts and—maybe more surprisingly—sports. There are more private art galleries than ever before, and billionaires now own two-thirds of professional basketball and football teams in the U.S. These clients see arts and entertainment as more than investments or hobbies and rather as means of making a social and cultural impact in their community. Building a new stadium and developing the area around it, for example, can potentially revitalize a neighborhood while creating jobs and opportunities for local businesses.

For advisers, one of the greatest benefits you can bring to these clients is helping connect them with like-minded peers who can help them pursue their interests and achieve their goals. If a client has a passion for fine art, for example, help put them in touch with individuals who have similar collections and experience as a patron. Those contacts can provide your clients with guidance and support and share their own experiences, whether it’s showing them how to lend their pieces to institutions or how to create their own endowment.

Networking is most effective and useful when it’s focused on a specific cause. It’s not about simply introducing affluent clients to other wealthy people, but identifying the issues close to them—whether it’s entertainment, education, global health—and connecting them with resources that will help steer and amplify their philanthropic efforts.

Second, and possibly the most significant trend for advisers of UHNW clients to note, a massive intergenerational exchange of wealth is on the horizon. Just under half of all U.S. billionaires are age 70 or older, and over the next two decades an estimated $1.3 trillion in assets are set to change hands, whether to their heirs or charitable causes. Advisers should be proactive in driving discussions around that wealth transfer, reviewing legacy and contingency plans with clients and closely monitoring any regulatory or tax law changes to ensure those plans account for them.

Finally, billionaires, like most investors, are increasingly turning their attention to technology. Advisers should prepare accordingly for changing expectations around digital experience. The next generation of investors is far more digitally inclined than their parents when it comes to wealth management—demanding more access to data and tools like predictive analytics. As a wealth manager, it’s important to ask yourself if digital strategy is an area you can contribute to and if not, then who at your practice—or which third-party—is responsible for driving that work.