World's richest people getting richer, and faster - report

Times are good for the wealthy.
Times are good for the wealthy. Photo credit: Getty

The pool of money held by the world's wealthiest people grew by 12 percent last year as bull markets and the US dollar's weakening against most major currencies boosted global fortunes.

Adjusted for exchange rate swings, total global wealth rose 7 percent to nearly US$202 trillion (NZ$290 trillion), the survey by advisory firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found.

The rich - defined as millionaires - own almost half the world's entire wealth, the report found.

While residents of North America held the greatest share of personal wealth at almost 43 percent, the fastest growth came in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Most super-rich individuals lived in the US, China and Japan.

The business of providing advice to those super-rich is still strong in North America.

However, legacy retail brokerages such as Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, UBS AG's Wealth Management in the Americas and Wells Fargo Advisors lost market share as less wealthy clients went elsewhere.

More than 35 million Americans now have between US$250,000 and US$1 million, a wealth bracket the industry calls mass affluent.

BCG senior partner Brent Beardsley said that many mass affluent savers hold a lot of their money in a retirement account, like a 401(k), which oftentimes are managed by a company like Schwab or Fidelity.

BCG's annual study also showed Switzerland remained the world's biggest centre for managing offshore wealth with US$2.3 trillion, followed by Hong Kong with US$1.1 trillion and Singapore with US$0.9 trillion.

The two Asian centres have grown at yearly rates of 11 and 10 percent respectively over the past five years, more than three times the 3 percent rate Switzerland has posted.

It is in the fast-growing markets that large wealth managers including Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse are casting wider nets.

The Swiss banking secrecy from which they long profited has been weakened, meaning rich people from around the world can no longer easily use the Alpine Republic to stash wealth away from tax authorities at home.

The changes have put Switzerland in fierce competition with faster-growing centres like Hong Kong and Singapore.

Reuters / Newshub.