Parts of this article (those related to documentation) need to be updated.(January 2017)
High-net-worth individual (HNWI) is a term used by some segments of the financial services industry to designate persons whose investible assets (such as stocks and bonds) exceed a given amount. Typically, these individuals are defined as holding financial assets (excluding their primary residence) with a value greater than US$1 million.
However, there are distinct classifications of HNWI and the exact dividing lines depend on how a bank wishes to segment its market. For example, an investor with less than US$1 million but more than US$100,000 is considered to be "affluent", or perhaps even "Sub-HNWI". "Very-HNWI" (VHNWI) can refer to someone with a net worth of at least US$5 million.
By 2007, the expansion of HNWI assets led to the creation of a super class of HNWIs, known as ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), i.e. those with US$30 million in liquid financial assets according to the Capgemini and Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report 2006 or with a disposable income of more than US$20 million.
At the end of 2017, there were estimated to be just over 15 million HNWIs in the world. The United States had the highest number of HNWIs (5,047,000) of any country, while New York had the most HNWIs (393,500) among cities.  
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires all SEC-registered investment advisers to periodically file a report known as Form ADV. Among other things, Form ADV requires each investment adviser to state how many of their clients are "high-net-worth individuals." The Form ADV Glossary of Terms explains that a "high-net-worth individual" is an individual with at least $1,000,000 managed by the reporting investment adviser, or whose net worth the investment adviser reasonably believes exceeds $2,000,000 (or who is a "qualified purchaser" as defined in section 2(a)(51)(A) of the Investment Company Act of 1940). The net worth of an individual for SEC purposes may include assets held jointly with his or her spouse. Unlike the definitions used in the financial and banking trade, the SEC's definition of HNWI would include the value of a person's verifiable non-financial assets, such as a primary residence or art collection.
The World Wealth Report was co-published by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, previously known as Cap Gemini Ernst & Young who worked together since c. 1993, investigating the "needs of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs are individuals with more than $1 million in assets excluding primary residence)" in order to "successfully serve this market segment." Their first annual World Wealth Report was published in 1996. The World's Wealth Report defines HNWIs as those who hold at least US$1 million in assets excluding primary residence and ultra-HNWIs as those who hold at least US$30 million in assets excluding primary residence. The report states that in 2008 there were 8.6 million HNWIs worldwide, a decline of 14.9% from 2007. The total HNWI wealth worldwide totaled US$32.8 trillion, a 19.5% decrease from 2007. The ultra-HNWIs experienced the greater loss, losing 24.6% in population size and 23.9% in accumulated wealth. The report revised its 2007 projections that HNWI financial wealth would reach US$59.1 trillion by 2012 and revised this downward to a 2013 HNWI wealth valued at $48.5 trillion advancing at an annual rate of 8.1%.
The 2013 World Wealth Report was jointly produced by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management and included, for the first time, the Global HNW Insights Survey produced in collaboration with Scorpio Partnership. The inaugural survey represented one of the largest and most in-depth surveys of high-net-worth individuals ever conducted, surveying more than 4,400 HNWIs across 21 major wealth markets in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Africa. Scorpio Partnership have established themselves as a market leader in the supply of HNW insight having spent over 15 years conducting private client interviews, collecting business intelligence and working with over 100 clients who range from universal banks, domestic retail banks, specialist private banks and fund managers, to family offices, high-net-worth clients and regulatory bodies. The partnership is independently owned and managed by Sebastian Dovey and Cath Tillotson and carries out global assignment overseen from its base in London's West End.
|HNWI Wealth Distribution (by Region)|
|Region||HNWI Population||HNWI Wealth|
|Global||12 million||$46.2 trillion|
|North America||3.73 million||$12.7 trillion|
|Asia-Pacific||3.68 million||$12.0 trillion|
|Europe||3.41 million||$10.9 trillion|
|Latin America||0.52 million||$7.5 trillion|
|Middle East||0.49 million||$1.8 trillion|
|Africa||0.14 million||$1.3 trillion|
The World Wealth Report published Capgemini has estimated the number and combined investable wealth of high-net-worth individuals as follows, using the United States Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator.
|Year||Number of HNWIs
|In 2012 USD
Most global banks, such as Credit Suisse, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase and UBS, have a separate business unit with designated teams consisting of client advisors and product specialists exclusively for UHNWI. Because of their extreme high net worth and the way their assets were generated[further explanation needed], these clients are often considered to have characteristics similar to institutional investors.
By 2006, asset managers working for HNW individuals invested more than £300 billion on behalf of their clients. These wealth managers are bankers who in 2006, earned multimillion-pound salaries and owned their own companies and equity funds. In 2006, a list of the 50 top investment bankers was published by the Spear's Wealth Management Survey.
Brands in various sectors, such as Bentley, Maybach, and Rolls-Royce in motoring, actively target UHNWI and HNWI to sell their products. In 2006, Rolls-Royce researchers suggested there were 80,000 people in ultra-high-net-worth category around the world. UHNW individuals "have, on average, eight cars and three or four homes. Three-quarters own a jet aircraft and most have a yacht."
|1||New York City||393,500|
|6||San Francisco Bay Area||220,000|
The Wharton Global Family Alliance whitepaper was released in 2008 to study the investment strategies of single family offices in the United States and in Europe. The research was segregated into sub-groups representing those with less than $1 billion in assets and those with assets above $1 billion. The study found that U.S. families reported a more aggressive attitude toward investment objectives than their counterparts in Europe. One recommendation of the WGFA study advised the advisors and family offices serving this niche to avoid complexity in the structure of portfolios.
The authors cite that the more complex the portfolio and number of holdings, the more difficult the job of performing adequate governance, reporting, and education. The Institute for Private Investors, a peer networking organization for wealthy families and their advisors, suggested a similar theme to its membership in 2008 with a conference themed, "The Return to Simplicity". Kotak Wealth Management and CRISIL Research, published a report on the Ultra High Net Worth Individuals in India titled "Top of the Pyramid Report".
World Wealth Grows to $33.3 trillion Says Merrill Lynch
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