Singapore: Got at least five million US dollars? A private banker is at your service in Singapore, which is fast gaining a reputation as the Switzerland of Asia for the world’s growing ranks of multi-millionaires.
The tiny, tropical island-state, Southeast Asia’s most advanced economy, has emerged as a centre for the wealth management industry which caters to an elite breed called high net worth individuals, or HNWIs.
Banks have beefed up their wealth management services, taking up swank offices in the business district as well as recruiting and training staff in the fine art of dealing with this moneyed class.
“Typically, a client should have a financial net worth of between five to $10 million excluding a house, car and wine collection -- just money available to invest,” said Marcel Kreis, head of private banking for the Asia Pacific region at Credit Suisse, the Swiss banking giant.
Years of strong economic growth and an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit have swelled the Asia Pacific region’s list of HNWIs -- defined as those with more than $1million in investible assets, industry players said.
An industry report by consultancy Capgemini and US investment bank Merrill Lynch said the financial wealth held by Asian HNWIs could reach a staggering $12.7 trillion by 2011, growing at an annual rate of 8.5% above the global rate of 6.8%.
This compares with the $8.4 trillion in financial assets held by Asian HNWIs in 2006 -- nearly eight times the combined gross domestic product of all 10 Southeast Asian states, including oil-rich Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
China and Japan accounted for more than 64% of the regional wealth, while Singapore, India and Indonesia produced the highest number of millionaires that year, the report said.
As of 2006, the Asia Pacific region had 2.6 million HNWIs or 27.1% of the global total, it said. Only a small percentage of this number had a wealth manager, meaning the opportunities are vast, private bankers said.
While most of Asia’s HNWIs hold between $1 million and $5 million in net worth, there was a noticeably sharp rise in “ultra-HNWIs,” or people with more than $30 million to invest, the report said. Of the region’s 17,500 ultra-HNWIs in 2006, more than 28% were from China, it said.