Two million more high net worth individuals in 2013

Nearly two million people became high net worth individuals last year as wealth levels reached a record high. The World Wealth Report 2014 by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management found that the 15 percent increase in the population of those with more than US$1 million in investable assets in 2013 is the second largest since 2000, surpassed only by immediate post-crisis catch-up growth of 17 percent in 2009.

Improving economic and equity market performance helped add 1.76 million people to the global HNWI population in 2013, while the investable wealth of HNWIs grew by nearly 14 percent to reach a record high of $52.62 trillion.

“Overall, 2013 was another strong year for the high net worth market, with surging equity markets and improving economies contributing to double digit growth in both population and wealth levels,” said M. George Lewis, group head, RBC Wealth Management & RBC Insurance. “Looking at longer term growth trends, nearly 40 percent of the current level of high net worth wealth has been created in the past five years alone.”

North America and Asia-Pacific remained in a close race for the world’s largest HNWI market by population in 2013, with growth in Asia-Pacific narrowing North America’s lead to less than 10,000 individuals. North America’s HNWI population expanded by 16 percent to 4.33 million, while Asia-Pacific’s grew by 17 percent to reach 4.32 million.

North America remains the wealthiest region, increasing its HNWI wealth by 17 percent to reach US$14.88 trillion, though this growth was again outpaced by Asia-Pacific, where HNWI wealth expanded by 18 percent to US$14.20 trillion.

Meanwhile, Europe’s HNWI population grew by 12 percent to reach 3.83 million and their wealth by 14 percent to reach US$12.39 trillion, both significant increases from the previous two years. Latin America in contrast was an exception to strong global growth, with increases of only 4 percent in population and 2 percent in wealth, due to slow GDP growth and challenged equity markets.

Millionaires followed a more global mindset with their wealth in early 2014 by allocating over one-third (37 percent) of their assets outside of their home region, up from one-quarter (25 percent). While cash levels remained high at 27 percent, allocations to alternative investments increased by three percentage points to represent 13 percent of portfolios. There was a clear shift toward wealth growth among ultra-HNWIs, who reduced their focus on wealth preservation from 45 percent to 28 percent, in favor of growth (31 percent, up from 18 percent).

The trust and confidence of the wealthy in the wealth management industry surged, according to the report, with about three-quarters expressing high levels of trust in wealth managers and firms in early 2014, up from 61 percent the year prior.

Confidence in financial markets and regulatory bodies also increased, up to 58 percent from 45 percent, and 56 percent from 40 percent respectively.

HNWIs remain optimistic about their future prospects, with 77 percent feeling confident in their ability to generate wealth in the near future.

However, despite strong wealth growth and increasing confidence levels, HNWIs gave their wealth managers lower performance ratings than last year, down by four percentage points to 63 percent in early 2014. The most substantial drop in ratings was in North America, at seven percent, but this market continues to maintain the highest performance score of all regions.

In terms of service provision, wealthy investors stated that they prefer to seek professional advice (34 percent versus 21 percent not seeking advice), work with a single firm (41 percent versus 12 percent multiple firms), and receive customized services (29 percent versus 24 percent standardized services).

While HNWIs continue to prioritize direct contact with their wealth manager (30 percent), versus digital contact (26 percent), digital is gaining prominence, with almost two-thirds of HNWIs expecting most or all of their wealth management relationship to be run digitally within the next five years. “Even though we are seeing an encouraging environment of high growth and confidence, declining wealth manager performance scores indicate opportunities still exist for firms to tailor their offerings to better meet client needs,” said Jean Lassignardie, chief sales and marketing officer, Capgemini Global Financial Services. One way to address the evolving demands of current and future clients is to provide digital capabilities that move beyond simply having a digital presence, to offering an integrated and seamless client experience that incorporates digital at all touch points.”

The wealth report also highlights that the vast majority (92 percent) of HNWIs feel that investing their time, money or expertise to make a positive social impact is important to them, with 61 percent describing it as very or extremely important. Globally, HNWIs are looking to firms to play a greater role in supporting their social impact objectives.

Global HNWI wealth is expected to reach a new high of $64.3 trillion by 2016, representing 22 percent growth from 2013 levels and approximately US$12 trillion in new wealth. Robust growth is anticipated in most regions, with Asia-Pacific at the forefront with an anticipated 9.8 percent annual growth rate, positioning the region to be the largest HNWI market by population in 2014 and by wealth by 2015.

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