World's ultra-wealthy population to rise by 28% in five years

The US and Middle East will drive wealth creation amid lower interest rates and stock market recovery, Knight Frank report finds

The number of ultra-wealthy globally rose 4.2 per cent to 626,619 last year, according to Knight Frank. Getty Images
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The number of ultra-wealthy individuals will rise by 28.1 per cent globally during the five years to 2028, driven by lower interest rates, robust performance of the US economy and a sharp recovery in equity markets, according to a report by international property consultancy Knight Frank.

India will account for 50 per cent of the new wealth creation, while China will contribute 47 per cent, Malaysia 35 per cent and Indonesia 34 per cent, Knight Frank said in its Wealth Report 2024 on Wednesday.

Outside Asia, the Middle East, Australasia and North America will record strong growth in wealth creation, with Europe lagging and Africa and Latin America likely to be the weakest regions, the report found.

Knight Frank defines ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) as people who have a net worth of $30 million or more, including primary residences and second homes not held as investments.

The projected rate of wealth expansion is noticeably slower than the 44 per cent increase experienced in the five-year period to 2023, Knight Frank said.

“Rising rates had an impact on wealth portfolios last year, with the total wealth held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals falling by 10 per cent in the face of energy, economic and geopolitical shocks,” Rory Penn, head of London residential sales and chair of private office at Knight Frank, said in the report.

“Wealth creation is back – fuelled by a shift in the outlook for interest rates and propelled by the robust performance of the US economy, alongside a sharp recovery in equity markets.

“This year, we confirm a rise in the number of UHNWIs globally, led by growth in the US and the Middle East.”

The number of billionaires rose by 7 per cent globally last year to 2,544 from 2,376, while their collective wealth recovered by 9 per cent to $12 trillion from $11 trillion, according to a November report by Swiss banking group UBS.

The world’s five richest people have more than doubled their collective wealthto $869 billion, from $405 billion, since 2020, as almost five billion people globally – 60 per cent of the world's population – have grown poorer, charity Oxfam International said in a January report.

If each of the planet's five wealthiest menwere to spend $1 million daily, they would take 476 years to exhaust their combined wealth, Oxfam said in its annual Inequality Inc report.

In 2023, the number of UHNWIs globally rose 4.2 per cent to 626,619, from 601,300 a year earlier, with nearly 70 very wealthy investors minted every day, Knight Frank said.

At a regional level, wealth creation was led by North America and the Middle East, with Latin America the only region to see its population of wealthy individuals decline, the report found.

While Europe lagged in terms of new wealth generation, the continent remained home to the wealthiest 1 per cent, the findings showed.

Turkey led the country rankings with a 10 per cent expansion in UHNWI numbers, followed by the US at 8 per cent.

“Following a disastrous investment environment in 2022, marked by the breakdown of the 60/40 equity/bond model and a staggering $10 trillion loss in UHNWI portfolios, 2023 saw a turnaround in returns,” the Knight Frank report said.

“The rise in wealth creation was supported by global economic growth and the improved fortunes of key investment sectors.

“In the first half of 2023, despite ongoing rate tightening and rising bond yields, equities surged on the back of enthusiasm surrounding AI.

“Even as this trend waned in the second half of the year, declining inflation and the anticipation of earlier and more substantial rate cuts provided renewed momentum to equity markets.”

Meanwhile, Monaco continued to be the most expensive country to join the world’s top wealth bracket, where a person will need $12.9 million, the 2024 Wealth Report found.

Luxembourg and Switzerland have the next highest entry points to the 1 per cent club, requiring a net worth of $10.8 million and $8.5 million, respectively.

In the US, $5.8 million will get you into the richest club, while in Singapore you need a personal fortune of $5.2 million to join the wealthiest 1 per cent.

Knight Frank projected that a massive transfer of wealth and assets will occur as the silent generation and baby boomers hand over the reins to millennials.

The shift will see $90 trillion of assets move between generations in the US alone, making affluent millennials the richest generation in history, the report said.

Women make up around 11 per cent of global UHNWIs, Knight Frank said, citing survey findings from data provider Altrata.

“While still not a large share, this represents rapid growth from just 8 per cent less than a decade ago.”

World's richest people in 2023 – in pictures

Seven in 10 (or 71 per cent) of UHNWIs globally anticipate growth in their wealth this year, compared with 65 per cent of high-net-worth individuals – someone with a net worth of $1 million or more, including their primary residence, the report found.

Only 52 per cent of HNWI baby boomers anticipate growing their wealth in the next 12 months, in contrast to 75 per cent of Generation Z, with 43 per cent expecting “significant growth”, the findings revealed.

With wealthy individuals better connected and more willing to move than ever before, emerging wealth hubs are responding by offering incentives to challenge the supremacy of established global gateways, Knight Frank said.

“From Miami to Milan, relative upstarts among the world’s wealth hubs are challenging the supremacy of incumbents such as New York and London,” according to the report.

“An increasingly nomadic group of HNWIs appears happy to respond to incentives to move, whether these span tax, safety or simply a change of lifestyle.”

Updated: February 28, 2024, 9:03 AM