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With economy on the mend, very rich getting even richer

The mascot, the so-called Spirit of Ecstasy or Emily, is pictured on the Rolls Royce Phantom Series II. A new report on Tuesday said investable wealth of the world’s richest people rose by 10 per cent to record levels last year.


Canada's rich have never been richer, with those in the highest wealth bracket seeing the fastest growth.

The number of high net worth individuals in Canada – or people with investable wealth of $1-million or more – rose 6.5 per cent to a record 298,000 people last year. Growth was even larger among the ultra rich, or those with $30-million or more, whose population grew 11 per cent to 4,500 people.

It's the latest evidence of a comeback among the world's wealthy after the recession and losses in real estate and stock markets pummelled net worth.

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"High net worth investors benefited from an environment of overall reduced risk, despite challenging economic conditions, and this contributed to strong wealth growth," said George Lewis, group head of RBC Wealth Management, which co-produced the annual World Wealth Report with Capgemini.

In Canada, the face of wealth is changing. A growing proportion are immigrants or first-generation Canadians and the majority are self-made entrepreneurs as opposed to those who inherited their wealth, said David Agnew, CEO of the bank's wealth management arm in Canada, adding that two thirds in this group are men.

All told, wealth among high net worth people in Canada rose 6.8 per cent to a record $897-billion. Canada ranks seventh in population of high net worth individuals, with the largest numbers living in the United States, Japan, Germany and China in that order. The fastest-growing population of wealthy people are in Hong Kong and India.

There are different ways to calculate wealth trends in Canada. RBC uses proprietary data and defines high net worth individuals, or HNWIs, as those having investable assets of $1-million (U.S.) or more, excluding primary residences, collectables and consumer durables such as furniture. In terms of strictly incomes, 13,050 taxfilers had total incomes of $1-million or more as of 2010, down from 2008 levels, Statistics Canada data show.

The rich fared well in most regions of the world last year. The wealth of the world's high net worth individuals jumped 10 per cent last year to a record $46.2-trillion, bouncing back from a year-earlier decline. One million people joined the ranks of the rich last year, bolstered by a global recovery in the equity and real-estate markets, after wealth fell 1.7 per cent in 2011. That brought the total number of HNWIs worldwide to 12 million, up 9.2 per cent from a year earlier. There are nearly two million more high net worth people now than before the 2008 financial crisis.

Ultra HNWIs, or those with assets of $30-million or more, saw 11-per-cent growth in both wealth and numbers last year after declines in 2011. They number 111,000 people – or less than 1 per cent of the global high net worth population – but control more than one third of the wealth.

Among regions, North America reclaimed the top spot as largest high net-worth individual market last year after being leapfrogged by Asia-Pacific in the prior year. In the coming years, the Asia-Pacific region is projected to lead global growth.

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The rich remain a cautious bunch, focused more on wealth preservation than accumulation. Despite recent market gains, a third of HNWIs prioritize preserving wealth while 26 per cent are focused on growing it. Almost a third of their wealth is held in cash and deposits. In Canada, equities are the most popular place to put money, while cash accounts for a fifth of allocations, followed by real estate and fixed income.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More


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