Another day, another study of the world’s wealthy. So far, so bling. And the latest is nowhere near as detailed as, for example, the annual RBC Wealth Management-Capgemini effort.
Still, the Billionaire Census released yesterday by consultancy Wealth-X and Swiss bank UBS does have a differentiating factor: it focuses solely on individuals with – yes – net worth of $1 billion and upwards. And it contains some interesting snapshots of data, based on research carried out from July 2012 to July 2013.
For example, Hong Kong ranks ahead of every city in the world bar New York by number of the world’s 2,170 billionaires. The SAR has 75 to NYC’s 96, ahead of Moscow (74) and London (67) and far oustripping Mumbai (30) and Singapore (27).
Hong Kong is home to almost half as many billionaires as China, with 157 (and $384 billion), and its billionaires have $224 billion, more in total than India’s 103, which share $180 billion.
Some 15% of Hong Kong’s billionaires are female, as against 8% for Asia as a whole. And the figure compares even more favourably with India, where only 3% of the country’s 103 billionaires are women, the joint lowest such proportion in the report.
More broadly, and following a familiar trend of wealth growth, Asia saw the fastest rise in the number of billionaires in the study period of 13%, to 508 from 490, against a global rise of just 0.5%. The Middle East (12.4%) and Africa (11%) came next.
In fact, a “key finding” is that Asia is expected overtake US in the next five years by 2018 in terms of the number of billionaires, notes Mykolas Rambus, CEO of Wealth-X.
There are three main investment trends highlighted by the report, says Yoon Chi-Won, Asia-Pacific chairman and CEO at UBS. One is a growing interest in Asia in direct investments, which he puts down at least partly to the fact that many Asian billionaires are entrepreneurs seeking returns comparable double-digit returns as they would get from their businesses.
Another trend is an increasing interest in healthcare-related assets, such as R&D, technology, hospitals and medical tourism.
One reason for this is China’s big declared commitment to boost investment into the healthcare sector in the coming years, says Amy Lo, Asia head of ultra high net worth at UBS. Another is that the sector fits with the philanthropic inclinations of many billionaires in the region, many of whom are self-made and thus have education and healthcare “close to their hearts”, adds Lo.
A third central theme among Asian billionaires is a focus on the smooth generational transfer of wealth and succession planning. “They are deeply concerned about legacy matters,” notes Yoon.