Jun 20, 2013

    North America's rich list beats Asia's

    NORTH America reclaimed the top spot with the most millionaires last year, beating Asia as the world's ultra-rich pushed global wealth to a record high, according to a report by Cap Gemini and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

    The number of people in North America with at least US$1 million (S$1.26 million) in investable assets climbed 11.5 per cent to 3.73 million last year, according to the 17th annual World Wealth Report.

    The number of high-net-worth individuals in the Asia-Pacific region, which had overtaken that of North America the year before, increased 9.4 per cent to 3.68 million, boosted by Singapore and Hong Kong.

    Hong Kong's number of high-net-worth individuals climbed 36 per cent to 114,000, with a combined wealth of US$560 billion, the report stated. Singapore's jumped 10 per cent to 101,000, with a wealth of US$489 billion.

    The combined wealth of the world's millionaires rose 10 per cent to a record US$46.2 trillion last year, after declining 1.7 per cent in 2011.

    North America remained the richest region, with US$12.7 trillion of high-net-worth assets, compared with US$12 trillion in Asia-Pacific, where the wealthy are expected to retake the top spot in "the very near future" and lead growth over the next three years, according to the study.

    "Both the United States and Canada benefited from marginal GDP (gross domestic product) growth, as well as equity and real-estate markets," Mr Jean Lassignardie, chief sales and marketing officer of Paris-based Capgemini Global Financial Services, said at a press conference in New York on Tuesday, when the report was released.

    Still, the Asia-Pacific region's total wealth increased 12.2 per cent, outpacing North America's 11.7 per cent growth, he said.

    The increase in wealth was led by the super-rich - those with at least US$30 million to invest - whose assets and numbers rose by about 11 per cent following declines in 2011, according to the report.

    In Europe, the high-net-worth population increased 7.5 per cent to 3.41 million, and their wealth climbed 8.2 per cent to US$10.9 trillion, the study found.

    Global wealth will grow at 6.5 per cent annually over the next three years, led by a 9.8 per cent increase from the Asia-Pacific region, according to the report. Assets of high-net-worth individuals are projected to reach US$55.8 trillion in 2015.

    Wealth is being created twice as quickly in developing regions such as Asia-Pacific and Africa, where it took rich people an average of 12 years and 16 years, respectively, to accumulate their assets, the study found.

    "Asia's wealth generation is less dependent on markets," Mr Barend Janssens, head of RBC Wealth Management's emerging-markets division, told reporters in Singapore yesterday, citing the region's entrepreneurship.

    That contrasts with "the Western world, where they manage a lot of inherited money. That creates the potential to grow very quickly".

    North America's wealthy held most of their assets in equities, at 37 per cent, while those in Latin America and Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, preferred property.

    Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management compiled data from 71 countries accounting for 98 per cent of global gross national income.

    Toronto-based RBC Wealth Management manages more than C$369 billion (S$454 billion) for customers globally.