The World’s Wealth

The population of high net worth individuals edged slightly higher in 2011 while global wealth declined


After a robust growth of 8.3% in 2010, the global population of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) grew marginally by 0.8% to 11.0 million in 2011. Most of the growth can be attributed to HNWIs in the US$1 to US $5 million wealth band that represent 90% of the global HNWI population. In contrast, global HNWI wealth in 2011 fell by 1.7% to US$42.0 trillion versus 9.7% growth in 2010.

The ultra HNWIs had a larger decline with the global population decreasing by 2.5% in 2011. Ultra HNWI wealth declined by 4.9% during the same period.

The 1.7% decline in 2011 is the first since the 2008 world economic crisis when HNWI global wealth declined by 19.5%.

In regional and country trends:

  • The number of HNWIs in Asia-Pacific expanded 1.6% to 3.37 million in 2011, making Asia-Pacific the largest HNWI region for the first time, surpassing North America’s HNWI population of 3.35 million
  • North America remained the largest region for HNWI wealth at US$11.4 trillion compared to US$10.7 trillion in the Asia-Pacific region
  • South Korea replaced India as the country with the 12th largest HNWI population
  • The top three countries, U.S, Japan and Germany, retained 53.3% of the total share of HNWIs, slightly up from 53.1% in 2010
  • Of the top twelve countries by population, Brazil saw the greatest percentage rise (6.2%) in the number of HNWIs

Moving forward, HNW clients will need to prepare themselves for ongoing market volatility and extended periods of bimodal investment outcomes, with returns likely to be extremely positive or extremely negative, rather than equally distributed.

Exhibit: The global population of HNWIs grew marginally by 0.8% to 11.0 million in 2011


® / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under license.