What Is an Ultra-High Net-Worth Individual (UHNWI)?

Ultra-high net-worth individuals (UHNWI) are defined as people with investable assets of at least $30 million, usually excluding personal assets and property such as a primary residence, collectibles, and consumer durables. UHNWIs comprise the wealthiest people in the world and control a disproportionate amount of global wealth. Although they constitute only .003% of the world’s total population, they hold approximately 13% of the world's total wealth. Ultra-high net worth is generally quoted in terms of liquid assets over a certain figure, but the exact amount differs by financial institution and region.

Forbes curates lists of the world's richest people. As of 2018, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos reigns as the wealthiest person in the world, followed by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, and Carlos Slim Helu. Others near the top of the world's UHNWI population include brothers Charles and David Koch, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and several children and in-laws of Sam Walton, the late founder of Wal-Mart.

Key Takeaways

  • Ultra-high net-worth individuals are some of the wealthiest people in the world.
  • UHNWIs have assets of at least $30 million.
  • The average UHNWI donates $25 million to charity during their lifetime.

Understanding Ultra-High Net-Worth Individual (UHNWI)

The biggest changes in the numbers of UHNWI appear in emerging economies and specifically in the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. China and Russia, in particular, boast more than 200 billionaires in their ranks, making these countries third and fourth, respectively, behind the United States and the United Kingdom. In Russia, Vladimir Potanin, chairman and key shareholder in Norilsk Nickel, and Leonid Mikhelson, a gas and petrochemical magnate, are two of the country's top billionaires. In China, Wang Jianlin's real estate fortune, Jack Ma's company Alibaba, and Ma Huateng's internet holdings propel them to the top of their country's list of UHNWIs.

How Many UHNWIs Are There?

As of 2018, the UHNWI population was 226,450, up from 172,850 in 2015, a number 70% higher than a dozen years earlier. Some 2,170 of these individuals have more than $1 billion, an 85% increase over the number of billionaires in the previous decade. Together, these individuals hold $27 trillion in aggregate wealth. The majority of ultra-high net-worth individuals are self-made men and women.

Where Do UHNWIs Live?

As of 2018, half of all UHNWIs live in North America, and a quarter of them live in Europe. Asia-Pacific countries, excluding India and China, host 13% of the world's UHNWI population. The United States has the highest number of UHNWIs; 48% of them call the country home. China has the second-highest share of the UHNWI population with approximately 8%, and the United Kingdom follows with 4%.

What Do UHNWIs Do With Their Money?

UHNWIs keep a close eye on their wealth and tend to manage it themselves. Among families with more than $200 million in assets, only 20% give their financial advisers full discretion to make portfolio changes; 44% give limited discretion, and 36% gave no discretion to their advisers and portfolio managers.

On average, UNHWI philanthropists donate $25 million to charity during the course of their lives. Nearly 40% of those donations go to educational causes. Female UHNWIs tend to give gifts that are 26% larger than those of their male counterparts. The average UNHWI philanthropist is 64 years old with an average net worth of $240 million.