Key Findings:

  • 73% of wealthy investors find business ownership enticing given recent regulatory and tax reform
  • 58% of wealthy investors are considering starting a business now or in the near future
  • 77% of Millennials are reluctant to jump in saying that it’s too risky, and four-in-five current owners say children would rather inherit money than the business itself 
  • 52% of business owners who plan to exit in the next five years will sell, although they have neglected the preparation required to sell at a profit: 58% have never had their business formally appraised, and 48% have no formal exit strategy in place

February 13, 2018 - NEW YORK

Most wealthy investors believe the economic climate is ripe for owning a business, and many (58%) would consider starting one now or in the near future. At the same time, others see an opportunity to exit their business and make a profit, yet 48% have no formal exit strategy in place and it’s unclear who will step into their shoes. Seventy-seven percent of Millennials feel that starting a business is too risky and four-out-of-five business owners say their children would rather inherit the money from the sale of the business than the business itself. This is according to UBS Wealth Management USA’s latest UBS Investor Watch report, “Who’s the boss?”, released today, which delves into investors’ sentiment on business ownership. The quarterly survey, in its 22nd edition, polled over 2,000 affluent and high net worth investors, including 1,085 business owners.

Prestige in being an entrepreneur

The report indicates that the era of the entrepreneur is here to stay, with 73% of respondents agreeing that recent tax reform makes business ownership more attractive and 72% saying they are highly optimistic about the state of the current economy, the highest level since the financial crisis. Almost half (49%) of wealthy investors believe that being an entrepreneur is now one of the most prestigious career paths, second only to being a doctor.

Many current business owners are looking to exit

The economic environment is also driving current business owners to consider their exit. Forty-one percent of business owners expect to leave their business in the next five years. Over half of these owners (52%) plan to sell, not only because many are approaching retirement age but because timing may boost their chances of securing a favorable sale price. On the other hand, only 20% plan to leave the business to their family.

"Small businesses are experiencing an important shift," said Paula Polito, Client Strategy Officer of UBS Global Wealth Management. "Most owners are choosing to sell instead of passing businesses to the next generation to fill their shoes."

Most are unprepared

Though a majority of exiting business owners are planning to sell, many are woefully unprepared. Fifty-eight percent have never had their business formally appraised, and 48% have no formal exit strategy in place. This indicates a knowledge gap for the 75% of owners who believe they can sell their business in a year or less.

"Selling a business successfully requires a great deal of planning, which owners often underestimate," said Stewart Kesmodel, Head of Global Family Office, Americas for UBS Global Wealth Management. "Before pursuing a sale, it is important for business owners to not only have a view on the value of their business to potential buyers, but also an understanding of how that price applies to their personal needs post-transaction."

Heirs are reluctant to take over the business

Among business owners who plan to sell but considered leaving the business to family members, 89% cite a lack of interest from their potential heirs as the main reason, while 21% felt that their family members were not qualified to take over the business. These would-be sellers also overwhelmingly agree that their children would rather inherit assets from the sale of the business (82%) than the business itself.

Business owners who do plan on passing their business on to family have concerns about their legacy. Most (57%) are concerned about their heirs taking the business in a different direction, and an equal number are worried that heirs might sell the business outside the family. Their biggest fear, however, is missing their role in the business (62%) after spending a lifetime building a successful enterprise.

Millennials see the appeal, but remain wary

Among those considering starting their own business, Millennials lead the pack, with 72% responding positively. However, there is a marked hesitation to make their dreams a reality and lay the necessary groundwork. In fact, 77% of Millennials think becoming a business owner is too risky, compared to 55% of Gen Xers and 43% of Boomers. Millennials also feel that the stress level of owning a business is too high (83%), while only 64% of Gen Xers and Boomers agree.

"Many Millennials joined the workforce in a tough job market, whether it was during the bubble burst of 2000 or the Great Recession of 2008,"stated Sameer Aurora, Head of Client Strategy for UBS Global Wealth Management. “These factors likely contribute to a more conservative outlook when it comes to business risk and can prompt many Millennials to seek job security in larger corporations as opposed to start-ups."

About UBS Investor Watch

UBS Wealth Management Americas surveys U.S. investors on a quarterly basis to keep a pulse on their needs, goals and concerns. After identifying several emerging trends in the survey data, UBS decided in 2012 to create the UBS Investor Watch to track, analyze and report the sentiment of affluent and high net worth investors. For more information on UBS Investor Watch, visit


For this twenty-second edition of UBS Investor Watch, we surveyed 2,245 high net worth investors (with at least $1 million in investable assets) from December 13 - January 2, 2018, including 264 with at least $5 million. 1,085 survey respondents are business owners (770 current/315 former) with at least one employee and $250k in annual revenue. With 90 survey respondents, we conducted qualitative follow-up interviews.

Notes to Editors:

About Global Wealth Management

Global Wealth Management provides comprehensive advice, solutions and services to wealthy families and individuals around the world. Clients who work with UBS benefit from a fully integrated set of wealth management capabilities and expertise, including wealth planning, investment management, capital markets, banking, lending and institutional and corporate financial advice. As the world’s largest wealth manager, UBS provides clients with access to a wide range of products and solutions from leading third-party institutions that complement its own offering.

About UBS

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. The operational structure of the Group is comprised of our Corporate Center and four business divisions: Global Wealth Management, Personal & Corporate Banking, Asset Management and the Investment Bank. UBS’s strategy builds on the strengths of all of its businesses and focuses its efforts on areas in which it excels, while seeking to capitalize on the compelling growth prospects in the businesses and regions in which it operates, in order to generate attractive and sustainable returns for its shareholders. All of its businesses are capital-efficient and benefit from a strong competitive position in their targeted markets.

UBS is present in all major financial centers worldwide. It has offices in 54 countries, with about 34% of its employees working in the Americas, 35% in Switzerland, 18% in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 13% in Asia Pacific. UBS Group AG employs approximately 60,000 people around the world. Its shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).


For UBS Global Wealth Management:
Maya Dillon, 212-713-3130
Mobile: 917-615-7094