Defined as people with investable assets of $1m or more, Asia-Pacific’s HNWI population is second only to North America now, according to the 2011 Asia-Pacific Wealth Report released by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management together with Capgemini.
The amount of money held by HNWIs in Asia-Pacific also trumped that held in Europe, up 12.1% to $10.8trn by the end of the year, compared with $10.2trn in Europe.
Michael Benz, head of Asia-Pacific Wealth Management at Merrill Lynch, said: "Asia-Pacific remains a region of enormous wealth creation, spearheaded by China, India and Japan, which continue to outpace global levels."
Japan remains the single largest HNWI market in the region, accounting for 52.5% of HNWI population and 62.8% of HNWI wealth in Asia-Pacific.
Growth of HNWIs in Japan was slower than other markets, however, owing to a slowdown in macro-economic growth and a relatively poor performance in its stock markets.
Meanwhile, the number of wealthy individuals in China grew by 12% to 535,000 by the end of 2010.
Both Australia and India also showed robust increases, with Australia jumping one place to become the ninth-largest HNWI market and India entering the top 12 for the first time, in 12th place.
Hong Kong held pole position as the largest and fastest-growing HNWI market for the second year in a row.
Its HNWI population recouped the losses seen since the global financial crisis and surpassed its pre-2007 peak of 96,000, to hit 101,300. Wealthy individuals in Hong Kong now own $511bn in investable assets.
Similarly to 2009, a closer look at asset allocation revealed a preference for real estate and equities among Asia-Pacific’s HNWIs.
Traditionally bricks and mortar as well as other real estate assets have been viewed as important investment vehicles in the region. But breaking the statistics down further illustrates an important shift from real estate in China.
HNWIs in the country had 42% of their holdings in equities at the end of 2010, far higher than the global average, amid concerns that property prices are due for a major correction.
Merrill Lynch said this shift from property to equity is expected to continue for the rest of 2011 and into 2012, and will be seen in other individual nations as well.
In comparison, research released by Skandia on Wednesday showed HNWIs in the UK had one-third of their holdings in property and look set to increase this exposure over the next 12 months.