At a forum for family offices that I attended recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to the principle of one such office about everything from why her family had no interest in yachting, to her hobbies and, eventually, to what the future held in store for me. However, before we moved on to these myriad topics, I made the mistake of using the term ‘ultra-high-net-worth individual’ (UHNWI) before realising she fell into this category. She stopped me in my tracks and explained to me why she, and others that she knew, hated the term UHNWI. Since that chance encounter, terms like UHNWI and, more personally, ‘millennial’, have started to get on my nerves.
“Being continually referred to as a UHNWI is really dehumanising at times,” she explained. “When people ask myself and my husband what we do, we use our interests to define our roles. I may be wealthy, but I am also a life coach. My husband tells people he is a gardener because he loves to work in our garden. The quality of conversation we have as a result of defining ourselves in line with our interests far outweighs the conversations we would have if we said ‘we are ultra-high-net-worth individuals’”.
There is an important message in her comment, especially for a niche market. It is impossible to try and define a whole group of individuals, that come from a variety of countries, religions and upbringings, within a single term. In an industry where the figures, in terms of new-build units, are so small, the aim should be to target messages for specific individuals by way of the interests and hobbies that they feel define them
Many is the time that I have had to listen to older generations speaking about millennials in such a way that you would be forgiven for assuming that all of us are exactly the same. I can understand why people use blanket terminology for macro-level data analysis – it is practical. But we aren’t a macro-level industry, we are a small market that needs to appreciate individuality, rather than seeking generic answers.
At The Superyacht Forum 2017, a delegate during a marketing session spoke about the process he underwent when trying to sell a superyacht for his client. He wasn’t a broker, he was the captain on board the vessel. What distressed him was the approach taken by the brokerage firm they were using at the time. Rather than actively pursuing a client based on their interests, the firm in question put the spec out to their previous clients. In response, the captain in question took to the Forbes rich list to identify individuals that may be interested in the vessel based on the information he could find on them online. The vessel was sold based on his research.
The message that I received from the principle of the family office was that, while wealth was part and parcel of her life, it did not define her or greatly influence the areas in which she invested. What defined her was her interests and how she chose to live her life beyond the veil of wealth. Superyacht advertisement often uses terminology like ‘the ultimate luxury’, but to this individual that message screamed indulgence not necessity.