High net worth individuals (HNWI) are those with more than US$1 million in assets that don’t include “investments of passion” such as art and presumably, things like cars and wine, according to the criteria of consultants Capgemini Hong Kong.
Their Asia Pacific Wealth Report 2012 shows Hong Kong’s millionaires to have the shakiest grip on their finances of any country in Asia. In 2007 Hong Kong had 96,000 HNWI, by 2008 it had plummeted to just 37,000. The following two years to 2010 rebounded as only Hong Kong can, to 101,000 very wealthy individuals. Capgemini work in calendar years. This year the number has fallen again, from 101,000 to 84,000. “That’s a 17 per cent drop in Hong Kong from last year,” comments Mark Wales, Capgemini Hong Kong vice president.
So why the huge swings? It seems to be rags to riches and then back to rags, just as fast. “We’ve got a really exaggerated pyramid of wealth in Hong Kong, though less in the ultra-rich category, but more in the millionaire- next-door bracket,” says Wales.
The reason, it seems, is that we’re very susceptible to fluctuations in equities markets. “The number of millionaires goes up and down with the Hang Seng Index - it’s equity market driven,” he explains. So where to from here for our millionaire population? Wales refused to indulge in any crystal ball gazing, saying only that with three more months left of 2012, there’s still plenty to play for. “We have yet to see what the long term effects of QE3 will be, and there are still ongoing issues in Europe and the American election is looming,” he adds. So hang on to what you’ve got.