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Private banking: Hong Kong millionaires at record level

Bankers suffer a blow as revenue opportunities for serving Hong Kong’s record number of millionaires are few and far between, principally thanks to the concentration of wealth in illiquid, fixed assets such as real estate.

The number of Hong Kong millionaires has increased by 21% during the past year, according to a survey by Citi consumer banking.

There are now an estimated 732,000 millionaires in Hong Kong, making up some 13% of the adult population. Hong Kong Island has the highest density of millionaires, with Wan Chai the leading district.

The main reason for the increase in Hong Kong’s wealth cited by the 4,000-plus survey participants was from stock gains. Wealth increases from the sale of property declined drastically year-over-year, suggesting the local real-estate market might have peaked.

Almost 60% of respondents say they expect the property prices in Hong Kong to drop during the next year.

International private banks have been struggling to turn a profit in Hong Kong largely because the majority of assets among the country’s millionaires are held in fixed assets. The average assets of the Hong Kong millionaires is some HK$12 million ($1.5 million), with nearly three quarters of that wealth being derived from assets in real estate.

A staggering 64% of millionaires who own property are mortgage-free in Hong Kong – making revenues from lending a challenge for banks.

In liquid assets, stocks are still the preferred investment class for millionaires, with bond investments falling as part of an overall portfolio last year.

Almost two thirds of the millionaires expect their wealth to increase by up to 20% during the next five years. One third expects wealth to remain flat.

Among the millionaires from 60 to 79 years old, only one quarter had made plans to pass on their wealth. Other findings by the survey show Australia to be the most popular destination for emigration among millionaires.

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