Do you qualify as a high-net-worth individual?

The number of high-net-worth individuals is on the rise in Asia.
Are you a high-net worth individual? How about an ultra-high-net-worth individual?

If youÆve got more than $1 million in financial holdings, excluding your primary residence, then you qualify as a high-net-worth individual (HNWI) according to the second annual Asia-Pacific Wealth Report published by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini. You need $30 million of disposable income to qualify for the ultra group.

If you are one of these very rich people, chances are you live in China or Japan, as the two countries account for just over 64% of regional high-net-worth wealth.

Of course, in the future weÆre likely to see more very rich people from Singapore, India and Indonesia as these were some of the fastest-growing rich populations in the world, with 2006 gains of 21.2%, 20.5% and 16% respectively.

Hong Kong boasts an estimated 87,000 very rich people, up 12.2% from a year earlier, which was on a 14.4% increase in 2005.

On average, the ranks of rich are increasing. Roughly 2.6 million Asian people qualify as HNWIs, thatÆs an increase of 8.6% over 2005, and slightly more than the global average increase of 8.3% in 2006. Combined they hold $8.4 trillion in wealth.

The number of ultra-rich in Asia increased by 12.1% to 17,500 people, a slight gain over the 12.1% growth in 2005. This wealthiest sectorÆs growth rate also exceeded that of the ultra group worldwide, which reached 11.3% in 2006.

The wealth creation in Asia was driven by strong real gross domestic product growth and continued market capitalisation growth, say the authors of the report.

ôOverall, itÆs a story of growth, growth and more growth for the HNWI marketplaces throughout the region,ö says Rahul Malhotra, head of Asia-Pacific Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. ôWhile HNWI investment behaviours differ from market to market, the underlying drivers of wealth remain strong overall and we expect the region will continue to outpace the global rate of growth in HNWI wealth.ö

But if youÆre still reading you probably want some myths shattered. You probably wonÆt be surprised to learn that very rich people in Asia-Pacific allocated a larger percentage of their portfolios to tangible asset classes than their global peers. On average, Asian HNWIs allocate 30% of their portfolio to real estate, while their global counterparts put only 24% into the same category.

Asia-Pacific investors are interestingly more bearish on equities and alternative investments, which include structured products but also fun stuff like wine, art and fast cars. (The comparison is global investors allocate 31% of their portfolios to equities, while Asian investors only allocate 25%; and global investors put 10% aside for alternative investments while Asian people put 8% aside for the same category).

However, Gregory Smith, CapgeminiÆs vice president of financial services, says that he sees Asian investors increasing their alternative investment picks in the future and decreasing their real estate holdings.

What may come as a surprise to Hong Kongers is that they are not far-and-away the biggest property holders in the region. Indeed, the breakdown of financial assets of HNWIs by market in Asia in 2006 shows that South Koreans put the most stock in real estate û with 42% of their allocations in real estate (then 21% in cash/deposits, 18% in fixed income, 13% in equities and 6% in alternatives).

Next in line are Singaporeans who put 36% of their allocations towards real estate (then 26% in equities, 18% in cash/deposits, 10% in fixed income, and 10% in alternatives). Hong Kongers share third place with Indonesians for leaning towards real estate investments û both allocate 34% of their portfolios to real estate. For Hong Kongers the balance is 26% in equities, 16% in fixed income, 15% in cash/deposits and 9% in alternatives. Indonesians round out their investments by putting 29% in equities, 15% in cash/deposits, 13% in fixed income and 9% in alternative investments.

Regionally, the HNWIs who are least interested in investing in real estate are the Taiwanese, who only put 24% of their portfolio in real estate û they prefer to invest in equities and put 28% of their investments there, followed by 19% each in fixed income and cash/deposits and 10% in alternatives.

Not surprisingly, the Japanese hold the most in cash/deposits, with 30% of their portfolio allocated there, 30% in real estate, 17% in equities, 16% in fixed income and 7% in alternatives.

And how old are you? The country with the largest percentage of young HNWI is China û 26% are between 31 and 40 years old; India has 19% in this age group, Singapore 15%, Indonesia 14% and Taiwan 11% - the thirtysomethings makes up less than 10% of the breakdown for the rest of the region. Japan has the largest percentage of older rich people with 54% of them aged 56-70; Korea also skews towards the older generation with 46% of their HNWIs in the same category.

In Hong Kong, 43% of the HNWIs are between 41 and 55, 36% are between 51 and 77, and 10% are aged between 31 and 40.
¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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