The number of Asian millionaires surpassed that of North America’s for the first time ever last year, said a report by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management on Wednesday, though their combined wealth shrank slightly amid the global economic downturn caused by the eurozone crisis.
In 2011, Asia was the home to 3.37 million high net-worth individuals (HNWI), compared with 3.35 million in North America and 3.17 million in Europe.
Comparatively, a similar report by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch had placed the number of Asian millionaires at 3.3 million the previous year, behind North America’s 3.4 million millionaires and ahead of Europe’s 3.1 million.
“Asia-Pacific is expected to continue showing stronger growth than other regions going forward, and its HNWI population and wealth are likely to keep expanding," wrote the Asia-Pacific Wealth Report, compiled by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management.
The report noted that weaknesses in Europe and other global trends unfortunately saw a slight dip in combined Asian wealth from $10.8 trillion in 2010 to $10.7 trillion – with North America still ahead on this count at $11.4 trillion.
Notably as well, cumulative wealth fell most significantly in countries such as Hong Kong (20.1 percent) and India (18 percent), while Indonesia and Thailand posted 5.3 percent and 9.3 percent growth respectively.
“Asia-Pacific will likely continue to face challenges such as high inflation and global factors such as the weak economy in Europe,” said Jean Lassignardie, corporate vice president at Capgemini, in a statement cited by Bloomberg. “However, the diverse nature of Asia-Pacific exports and economies means the outlook for the region as a whole remains strong.”
Overall, most of Asia's rich made their millions and billions through family businesses and property, said Capgemini. A growing number of wealthy Asians are also beginning to send their money to nearby offshore wealth centres, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, in search of wider access to products and services, tax advantages and financial confidentiality, the report said.
"We don't see massive shifting in the allocations of portfolio management," told Claire Sauvanaud, vice president of Capgemini Financial Services, to a press conference, citing the scarcity of skilled talent available in the region today.
Nearly 54 percent of Asian millionaires are concentrated in Japan, with almost 17 percent in China.