It might be easy for some to assume that Ultra-High-Net-Worth (UHNW) Millennials are just pampered children of privilege, content to enjoy lives of luxury with little care for the world around them.
Their wealth naturally sets them apart from their peers in many ways, but UHNW Millennials are still part of a much-maligned generation that is widely depicted as spoiled and coasting through life with an unearned sense of entitlement.
We wanted to move beyond myth and stereotype, and really get to the core of who this generation is, and how the most affluent among them view their wealth. That’s why OppenheimerFunds partnered with Campden Wealth to produce the Proving Worth study, the first ever in-depth look at the unique perspectives and values of UHNW Millennials—who we define as coming from families with a net worth of at least $35 million.
Through our research, we learned that many of the widespread assumptions about the generation born between 1980 and 1995 are far from reality. In fact, one of the surprising truths about how UHNW Millennials view their wealth is the striking similarity it bears to the views of their Silent Generation grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression.
A Generation of Do-Gooders
UHNW Millennials are forecast to inherit $30 trillion in assets, the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in North American history.1 Yet rather than seeing that inheritance as a tool for satisfying their own desires and material comforts, the research revealed UHNW Millennials view wealth primarily as a vehicle for having a positive impact on the world.
This idea is embodied by a fifth generation woman in North America, one of the 32 UHNW Millennials we surveyed for Proving Worth. As a high school and college student, she attended family board meetings to learn the ins and outs of how the family managed their assets. After graduating from college and forging a career path of her own, she gradually took on greater responsibility in the family office focusing on philanthropy and impact investing.
Through this woman’s efforts, her family now invests 100% of their portfolio in socially responsible/impact investments, which look to benefit society while earning financial returns that are measurable and sustainable.
“It just doesn’t seem realistic to me that someone in this day and age would be against impact investing,” she told us. “No one in our family has negative or ambivalent opinions about impact investing.”
Proving Worth showed that affluent young adults like this woman have an overwhelming desire to live purpose-driven lives. Basic human rights are a key focus for them, and they’re passionate about education, living conditions for the less fortunate, gender equality and the environment.
Having come of age in between a pair of “hundred year” market storms – the 2000 tech bubble and the 2008 global financial crisis – UHNW Millennials are also financially conservative and leery of taking on too much risk.
What They Need from Advisors
Millennials are the most educated generation in history, and they’re digital natives having grown up with mobile devices, the Internet and social media.2
But when it comes to seeking financial advice and finding information on promising impact investments, they’re looking to work closely with an advisor, not troll the Internet or social media for ideas. They understand there’s a big difference between awareness and education, and we learned through Proving Worth that they see advisors as a source of knowledge and advice as long as it’s personal, and aligns with their goals.
Fortunately for advisors, UHNW Millennials are at a point in life that offers a plethora of opportunities for them to weigh in with advice. They’re graduating from high school, going to college, earning degrees, launching careers, getting married, buying that first home and having children.
When you meet with families to go over their investments, use these milestones as an opportunity to break the ice with the next generation. Learn what they’re passionate about, and offer to fill in any gaps around financial literacy. Help them balance their natural inclination towards conservatism with their desire to preserve the family wealth.
Our research showed that UHNW Millennials want a high touch service from advisors who take the time to get to know them personally and understand their family’s goals.
Above all, remember that cultivating your next generation of clients is a process, not a one-time event.
This is the second installment in our monthly series about the issues facing UHNW families and their advisors. To learn more about what UHNW Millennials want from their advisor, visit our website to read an executive summary of the Proving Worth study, or gain access to the full report.
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These views represent the opinions of OppenheimerFunds, Inc. and are not intended as investment advice or to predict or depict the performance of any investment. These views are as of the publication date, and are subject to change based on subsequent developments.