Opinions of the rich and Asian

A survey by HSBC reveals the attitudes of AsiaÆs affluent class.

Despite the volatility caused by the financial crisis, a significant chunk of China's rich is still getting richer. According to a HSBC survey tracking Asia's well-to-do, 34% of wealthy mainlanders are up to 25% richer than at the beginning of the year, while another 12% have seen their wealth grow by more than 25% in the same period. Only 25% are less flush than they were before.

Not everyone fared as well as the Chinese, however. In Singapore, 56% of wealthy individuals are less flush than six months ago. Other countries where the rich suffered were Taiwan, Australia, and India, where 51%, 49% and 44% of the rich lost out.

The survey was conducted by Nielsen on behalf of HSBC. It interviewed a total of 1,500 affluent individuals, aged 30 to 55, in seven Asian countries. The people surveyed were in the top 10% in terms of wealth in their respective countries.

"The recent financial downturn has greatly eroded the value of wealth held by many mass affluent individuals in Asia," Bonnie Tse, head of HSBC Premier, wealth management and the mid-market of personal financial services in Asia-Pacific, said in a statement.

"However, there also appears to be groups of mass affluent individuals who have benefited from growth opportunities, especially from the recent market recovery in selected markets such as mainland China," said Tse.

The recovery in the Chinese market has increased the risk appetite among local investors, with 21% of respondents saying that they are willing to take on more risk than at the beginning of the year. Indians are quite the opposite, with 39% saying they were willing to accept less risk. Most respondents to the survey, however, reported that they had no plans to change their risk exposure.

"The survey found that a significant number of respondents continue to hold a moderate appetite for risk," said Tse. "Affluent Asians know investment risk is always present, but it can be managed. They are becoming more conscious of their tolerance of risk and are keen to learn about investment strategies that mitigate risk."

With regards to more generally changing their investment portfolio, a third of respondents in China, India, Taiwan and Malaysia said that they had been reading more about investment strategies. In the region, Malaysian respondents were the most likely to have made new investments since the beginning of the year, while the Taiwanese were the most likely to have sold investments to raise cash.

The bad news for luxury goods companies is that the financial crisis has made Asia's affluent more cautious with regards to their spending. Compared to six months ago, the majority of respondents from Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan said that they were cutting their spending. Indians were the most cautious, with 70% of respondents tightening the purse strings.

Across the region, the biggest change to spending habits was postponing the purchase of big-ticket items. Eating out has also become a luxury that can be put off, especially in Japan and Malaysia.

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