In May 2013, the Boston Consulting Group released an eagerly awaited annual update to its survey of global wealth. Unsurprisingly, the Massachusetts-based management consulting firm confirmed the largest number of millionaires live in the United States, and that the highest proportion of millionaire households were in Qatar. However, the data also shows a surprising growth in the number of wealthy persons in some other countries. The number of millionaires is actually declining in America, but growing rapidly in Asia.
The Boston Consulting Group does business in dozens of countries, providing management consulting services to both private-sector and government clients. In its annual report, it surveys the state of the wealth management industry and also estimates the number of millionaires in each country. Essentially, it does for millionaires what the better-known Forbes Billionaires List does for billionaires. In its most recent report, Forbes counted 1426 billionaires. Boston Consulting, by contrast, found a total of 13.8 million households with wealth in excess of $1 million. That’s almost 1 percent of the world’s households.
As in the past, Boston Consulting found the largest sheer number of millionaires can be found in the United States, where it counted 5.1 million wealthy households. Japan came second with 1.5 million and China finished third with 1.3 million. If current trends continue, China’s rapid growth in wealth will see it overtake Japan within five years. The top three were followed, in order, by the United Kingdom (with 509,000 millionaire households), Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, Italy, and France. According to the Financial Post, economic difficulties have caused Spain and Belgium to drop out of the top 15 on the Boston Consulting list. Their places have been taken by Russia and India.
The rankings stacked up quite differently, however, when the Boston Consulting Group measured the proportion of a country’s households that are wealthy, rather than the sheer number of wealthy households. By that count, countries like China still place well back in the rankings because of their vast socio-economic inequality. The United States dropped to sixth place, and Japan plummeted to 14th. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the data showed that the greatest concentrations of millionaires were found in small countries with extremely large private energy and financial holdings, like Switzerland in Europe, Kuwait and Qatar in the Middle East and Singapore and Hong Kong in eastern Asia. Incredibly, in Qatar, Switzerland, and Kuwait, more than one in every ten households possessed over $1 million in assets. After these five small super-rich countries, plus the United States in sixth place, come Bahrain, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Oman, Belgium, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands.
Boston Consulting says that its millionaires list project estimates wealth by adding up all “investible assets” except for primary family residences and personally owned businesses. These assets include cash, stocks, bonds and offshore holdings. By this measure, it found that total private wealth had ballooned to over $135 trillion, buoyed by rapid growth in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.