Merrill-Capgemini World Wealth Report Shows High Net Worth Individuals Recouping 2008 Losses

U.S., Japan, Germany still world's wealthiest countries, but recovery stronger in India, China, Brazil

The world's richest people regained their wealth in 2009, nearly recouping all 2008 losses, with ultra high net worth individuals seeing a 21.5% gain in their financial wealth and high net worth individuals seeing an 18.9% gain, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini said in a World Wealth Report released June 22.

While the global high net worth individual (HNWI) recovery was generally stronger in developing nations such as India, China, and Brazil, most of the world's high net worth population and wealth remained highly concentrated in the United States, Japan, and Germany, according to the study.

The overall population of wealthy individuals grew at a rate of 17.1% in 2009 and now stands at 10 million people globally, with wealth reaching $39 trillion.

"While in 2008 global HNWI wealth showed an unprecedented decline, a year later we are already seeing distinct signs of recovery, and in some areas a complete return to 2007 levels of wealth and growth," said Sallie Krawcheck, president of Global Wealth and Investment Management, Bank of America, in a release.

New York-based Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, a unit of Bank of America Corporation, conducted the 14th annual World Wealth Report in partnership with Capgemini, a Paris-based consultant.

The United States, Japan, and Germany together accounted for 53.5% of the world's 2009 population of high net worth individuals, defined as people with investable assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables, and consumer durables. Ultra high net worth individuals are defined as people with investable assets of $30 million or more.

North America remains the single largest home to high net worth individuals, with its 3.1 million HNWIs accounting for 31% of the global HNWI population, the study reported.

"The rebound has been, and will continue to be, driven by emerging markets--especially India and China, as well as Brazil," said Bertrand Lavayssi?re, managing director, Global Financial Services, Capgemini. "In fact, Asia-Pacific was the only region in which both macroeconomic and market drivers of wealth expanded significantly in 2009."

After falling 14.2% in 2008 to 2.4 million, Asia-Pacific's HNWI population rebounded in 2009 to reach 3 million, matching that of Europe's HNWI population for the very first time, the release said. Asia-Pacific wealth also surged 30.9% to $9.7 trillion, more than erasing 2008 losses and surpassing the $9.5 trillion in wealth held by Europe's HNWIs.

"This shift in rankings occurred because HNWI gains in Europe, while sizeable, were far less than those in Asia-Pacific, which saw continued robust growth in both economic and market drivers of wealth," the release said. "Hong Kong and India led growth in Asia-Pacific, after experiencing massive declines in their HNWI bases and wealth in 2008."

Read a story about Sallie Krawcheck's views of fiduciary responsibility from the archives of InvestmentAdvisor.com.

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