Almost one million (920,000) new millionaires were minted globally in 2014. The number of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) grew to 14.6 million, and their combined wealth to $56.4 trillion, according to the according to World Wealth Report 2015, published by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management. The growth represents about a 7% increase, or half the growth rate of the previous year. (For more, see: What Was the Millionaire Boom?)
While the wealthy are for the most part happy with their wealth managers, they want more help when it comes to advice on social impact investing, the report revealed. It defines HNWIs as those having investable assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables and consumer durables. (For more, see: Finding & Retaining High-Net-Worth Clients.)
The majority of the HNWI population and their wealth are relatively evenly distributed between North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The Asia-Pacific region grew at the fastest rate and is now home to more HNWIs than any other region.
North America continues to rank first overall for HNWI wealth at $16.2 trillion, compared to Asia-Pacific's $15.8 trillion and Europe's $13.0 trillion. But Asia-Pacific's growth in wealth (11% vs. 9% in North America and 4.6% in Europe) is expected to continue. In fact, Asia-Pacific is expected to claim the top spot for HNWI wealth before the end of 2015. (For more, see: Where the Ultra-Wealthy Live in America.)
Asia-Pacific also expanded its HNWI population at the fastest rate globally at 9%, pushing past North America as the region with the most HNWIs at 4.69 million. North America's HNWIs grew to 4.68 million and Europe's to 4 million.
"Two thousand and fourteen was the sixth consecutive year of growth for the high-net-worth market, with robust equity returns and economic performance enabling wealth to grow by about 7%, following double-digit growth the year prior," said George Lewis, group head, RBC Wealth Management & RBC Insurance, in a statement. "Asia-Pacific led the growth in wealth this year and just edged out North America as the new leader in high-net-worth population. Looking ahead to the next few years, we expect Europe to be a large driver of HNWI wealth as the region recovers economically." (For more, see: In Which Countries Do High-Earners Pay the Most Tax?)
China and the U.S. account for more than half (52%) of global HNWI population growth. India led the world in growth for both HNWI population (26%) and wealth (28%) due to strong equity market performance and the reduced cost of its substantial oil imports. China followed, with population and wealth growth rates of 17% and 19%, respectively. This was driven by gross domestic product (GDP) growth, increased exports and moderate equity market performance.
The only region with a decline in HNWI population and wealth was Latin America, where the wealthy population contracted by 2% and wealth fell by 0.5%. The drop was largely due to falling commodity prices, which resulted in a decline in the equity markets, the report points out.
In Europe the HNWI population and their wealth grew by only about 4% due to weak economic performance and falling equity markets in most countries. (For more, see: Is Germany Carrying the European Economy?)
How the Wealthy Invest
HNWIs allocation to cash is primarily to maintain their lifestyle (36%) or for security in case of market volatility (31%). The remainder of portfolios was allocated to real estate (20%), fixed income (16%) and alternative investments (10%). (For more, see: How Billionaires Manage Their Fortunes.)
"Increased exposure to equities indicates a slowly expanding appetite for risk as high-net-worth individuals show comfort in equities taking up a larger portion of portfolios, as asset values rise," said Andrew Lees, global sales officer at Capgemini Global Financial Services.
The use of credit in portfolios of HNWIs is widespread, the report also found. Eighteen percent of assets are being financed through borrowed money, with higher levels evident amongst women (19%), those in higher wealth bands ($20 million+) at 22% and those younger than 40 (27%). Credit is used largely as leverage for investments (40%), followed by real estate (22%). (For more, see: A Look at How the Ultra-Wealthy Invest.)
Wealth Manager Satisfaction
The wealthy are, for the most part, satisfied with their wealth managers, giving them a satisfaction rating of 72.5% globally. Those who have been with their primary wealth managers the longest (at least 21 years) are the most satisfied, registering a satisfaction rating of 84.3%. North Americans are the most satisfied (82.1%) followed by Latin Americans (75.6%), and their counterparts in the Asia-Pacific (72.7%), excluding Japan. Japanese HNWIs are the least happy with their wealth managers, with a satisfaction rate of only 56.5%. (For more, see: Tips for Wooing Wealthy Clients.)
The wealthy count on wealth managers for a wide range of needs, the study points out. In particular, they want their wealth managers to have a clear understanding of risk tolerance (73.2%), provide fee transparency (73.1%), deliver strong investment performance (72.5%) and understand HNWI concerns (72.0%). (For more, see: What Advisors Can Learn From Ultra-Wealthy Clients.)
The majority of HNWIs (92%) have an interest in investing their wealth, expertise and/or time to drive a positive social impact. The wealthy primarily rely on wealth managers (30%), family (27%) and friends (22%) for advice on social impact opportunities and approaches. Of those currently receiving social impact advice from their wealth managers and firms, more than half (54%) want even more help in setting clear social impact goals, determining which investments will affect the most change, structuring their investments, and measuring the impact of their social efforts. (For more, see: Impact Investing: Making a Difference and a Profit.)
More Growth Expected
The report projects that global HNWI wealth will continue to expand by 8% from the end of 2014 through to 2017, reaching $70.5 trillion. The increase will be led by the wealthy in Asia-Pacific at an anticipated growth rate of 10.3%.
In a shift from recent years, Europe is expected to contribute a larger role in HNWI wealth expansion at 8.45% annually, due to improved optimism for a more substantial recovery throughout the region. Growth in North America, meanwhile, is expected to be more modest at 7%. (For more, see: 5 Assets Only the Ultra-Rich Can Afford.)
The Bottom Line
Global wealth is on the rise, and that growth is expected to continue. While HNWIs are mostly happy with their wealth managers, they would like more advice when it comes social impact investing. Financial advisors catering to the wealthy should keep in mind that this segment of investors ranks a clear understanding of risk tolerance, fee transparency and strong investment performance as top priorities when it comes to managing their wealth. (For more, see: High-Net-Worth Client Tips for Financial Advisors.)