Surveys

Switzerland Remains Richest Net Per Capita Nation; US In Second Place, Japan, Singapore In Top 10

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, 7 October 2015

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Switzerland has felt a chill wind from pressures on offshore banking in recent years but it remains the richest country on a net per capita basis, while rival wealth management hubs of the UK and Singapore are in the top 10.

While sometimes there is talk that Switzerland’s standing as a banking and wealth management hub is under threat, new figures show the Alpine state ranked top for net per capita financial assets last year, at €157,450 ($176,727), a 5.7 per cent year-on-year rise, with the US in second place, at €138,710.

The rankings come from Allianz, the German financial services conglomerate, in the sixth edition of its Global Wealth Report. The report examines the asset and debt situation of private households in more than 50 countries. It says that three first-time milestones in financial asset development were passed in 2014: the global net financial assets of private households surpassed the €100-trillion mark, China’s private financial assets exceeded those of Japan, and the number of people falling into the wealth middle class in global terms breached the 1 billion mark.

Global gross financial assets of private households grew by 7.1 per cent in 2014, Allianz said.

The report, as it is based on figures for 2014 and measured in euros, may see a number of updates for 2015, due for example to the dramatic surge in the value of the Swiss franc at the start of the year, as well as by the fact that stock market indices in the developed world are down this year so far. (MSCI World Index is down 2.72 per cent since the start of January.)

In terms of rankings, the UK came third for net per capita assets, followed by Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. In eleventh space was Denmark, then New Zealand, Israel, Australia, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Ireland and Finland.

Globally, gross financial assets went up to a new record level of €136 trillion – higher than the value of all of the world's listed companies and all sovereign debt. 

“Many observers will interpret these figures as evidence for the so-called savings glut," Michael Heise, chief economist at Allianz, said. “But this is the wrong perspective. Against the backdrop of low interest rates, too many households are still not saving enough for old age. Policymakers should not try to restrict savings but find new ways and incentives to promote capital demand,” he said.

Asia, Singapore
Singapore, Japan and Taiwan were three Asia jurisdictions to make it into the top ten for net per capita income, a reminder that for all the talk of Asia’s ascent and Europe’s relative woes, there is still some way to go in terms of full catch-up. Beyond the top 20, the picture is rather mixed for Asia. Whereas some countries moved up – first and foremost China but also Singapore – others slipped by four or more rungs, namely Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, the report said.

In Singapore, gross financial assets grew by 6.4 per cent last year, slightly more slowly than in previous years. The strongest growth was reported in life and pension assets (9.0 per cent), last but not least reflecting the need for private provision, while securities in private households’ portfolios increased by 1.2 per cent and bank deposits by 6.1 per cent. 

The need to save for old age is also reflected by the structure of asset portfolios: almost half of all assets are held in life and pensions assets; no other Asian country invests more in this asset class. On the other hand, liability growth also slowed down further to 5.4 per cent in 2014. The debt ratio (liabilities as a percentage of GDP) continued to climb; at 75.5 per cent it is clearly above the regional as well as the global average.

High growth in Asia has also left its mark on the world asset map, where weightings continued to shift. The region Asia (ex Japan) accounted in 2014 for a good 16 per cent of the world's financial assets (gross as well as net). This figure is up by 1.4 percentage points on 2013 and means that the proportion of assets held by this region has more than trebled since 2000. 

 

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