The world’s very-high-net-worth population grew by 1.3% to 2.7 million in 2020, with combined assets of $26.8 trillion, according to a new report from Wealth-X. This is well down from the previous year’s increase, but noteworthy against the backdrop of the global pandemic and deep economic contraction.
This group of wealthy people, whom Wealth-X defines as those with $5 million to $30 million in assets, comprises a wide variety of individuals, including entrepreneurs and business owners, corporate executives, inheritors and retirees.
Wealth-X estimates that the world’s very-high-net-worth population will total 3.8 million by 2025.
These individual currently command about a quarter of the world’s millionaire wealth. In comparison, those with $30 million or more, defined by Wealth-X as ultra-high net worth, represent just 1.1% of global millionaires, but account for 34% of millionaire net worth.
Wealth-X arrives at its estimates by using its proprietary Wealth and Investable Assets Model, which produces statistically significant estimates for total private wealth and estimates the size of the population by level of wealth and investable assets for the world and each of the top 70 economies, which account for 98% of world GDP.
In 2020, the U.S. remained the dominant location for the global very-high-net-worth population in Wealth-X’s top 10 ranking, increasing by 7.9% from a year earlier to 1,045,865 individuals. U.S. growth came largely on the back of strong equity gains and an economy buffered by extensive policy stimulus.
Here’s how the other countries in the top 10 fared:
- China: 281,400, +9%
- Japan: 196,920, +5.7%
- Germany: 123,640, -3.8%
- France: 89,215, -12.3%
- U.K.: 84,270, -11.8%
- Canada: 72,880, -4%
- Hong Kong: 60,425, -5.4%
- South Korea: 58,290, +13%
- Switzerland: 49,375, -0.6%
Faster economic recovery from the pandemic and robust equity gains buoyed wealth portfolios in China, according to Wealth-X. Likewise in South Korea, with its surging stock market. Although the Japanese economy contracted, the Nikkei Index enjoyed a solid year.
In Hong Kong, widespread social unrest and China’s imposition of a new national-security law in July sullied the territory’s attractiveness as an international business hub.
The very-high-net-worth populations in all major European markets declined last year. The pandemic and attendant lockdowns took a big toll on these economies, with Brexit-related weakness adding to wealth portfolios’ woes in the U.K. An appreciation of the safe-haven Swiss franc partly constrained wealth losses in Switzerland.
Top 10 Cities
Wealth-X ranked seven U.S. cities among its top 10 global cities for number of very-high-net-worth individuals. It said two main factors account for this dominance.
For one, the U.S. has the world’s largest number of people in this group, and so many of its major cities have high populations. Second, average 11.3% growth in the populations of these seven cities vastly outpaced 1.3% global growth in 2020.
Meanwhile, no Chinese or German cities feature in the top 10, or even the top 20, because of those nations’ relatively large stock of private wealth being more evenly dispersed in urban centers across the two countries.
In the new ranking, London fell out of the top tier for the first time in Wealth-X’s records, which date back to 2004. The city’s very-high-net-worth population fell by 16% in 2020, dropping it from No. 8 in 2019 to No. 12. London’s cohort contracted faster than this population in the U.K. as a whole, which itself saw a sizable decline.
Wealth-X pointed to ongoing Brexit-related damage, poorly performing equity markets and pandemic-related economic weakness as contributors to the city’s ranking slump — and to markedly stronger performance across most major cities in the U.S. and Asia.
See the gallery for the top 10 cities for very-high-net-worth populations in 2020.