Credit Suisse finds the number of people with more than US$50 million in assets climbed to a record high over the past two years. Rose Dykins reports

Despite the economic strain of Covid-19, a report from Credit Suisse highlights an “explosion of wealth” amongst the world’s richest people.

The bank and investment firm’s Global Wealth Report 2021 found that the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNW) – with assets worth more than US$50 million dollars – increased to reach a record high of 218,200 globally last year.

While low- and middle-income consumers are heavily impacted by the cost of living crisis and may have exhausted their savings during the pandemic, the opposite is true for the world’s UHNW consumers (comprising 0.004 per cent of the global adult population).

These individuals reaped the benefits of rocketing house prices and booming stock market opportunities in a low-interest environment. According to the findings from Credit Suisse, the world’s UHNW demographic increased by 50 per cent over the past two years.

The Global Wealth Report reads: “The strong rise in financial assets resulted in an increase in inequality in 2021. The rise in inequality is probably due to the surge in the value of financial assets during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We estimate that global wealth totalled US$463.6 trillion at the end of 2021, a rise of US$41.4 trillion (9.8 per cent). Wealth per adult grew by US$6,800 (8.4 per cent) during the course of the year to reach US$87,489, close to three times the level recorded at the turn-of-the-century.”

The report also revealed regional UHNW patterns, highlighting the number of American dollar millionaires in the US increased by 5.2 million during 2021 to reach 62.5 million – almost the same size as the UK’s population (67 million).

More than a third (39 per cent) of the world’s millionaires live in the US (24.5 million millionaires in total). China is in second place, with 10 per cent of the world’s millionaires, ahead of Japan with 5.4 per cent, the UK (4.6 per cent) and France (4.5 per cent).

Meanwhile, Switzerland was named the richest country in terms of mean average wealth per adult at US$700,000 – ahead of the US (US$579,000).

The stark wealth inequalities in these countries are revealed by their median average wealth per adult. Australia tops the report’s median wealth table with US$274,000, while Switzerland falls to sixth place with a median wealth of US$168,000 and the US drops to 18th place with US$93,000.

New Zealand  experienced the biggest surge in mean average wealth over the past two years – from US$114,000 to US$472,000. Meanwhile, UK adults have a mean wealth of US$309,000 (14th place) and a median wealth of US$142,000 (ninth place).

By 2030, experts predict there will be 8,000 billionaires globally (up from about 3,000 today), with 600 worth US$10 billion and more than 50 worth US$100 billion.