As Global Wealth Shifts East, Who Wins?

Asian economies are getting richer and, thus, the number of wealthy Asians is increasing. This isn't news. What is perhaps more interesting is the pace at which that process is unfolding. According to a new report by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management, the number of Asia-Pacific millionaires rose past the number in North America last year! While North America remained the richest area, with high net-worth individuals' assets totaling $11.4 trillion, the Asia-Pacific region is not far behind, at $10.7 trillion. Which companies stand to gain from these increases in wealth in Asia?

"The first thing we do, let's call all the bankers." (With apologies to Shakespeare.)
When you have few or no assets, your demand for financial services is limited; indeed, a significant proportion of a society's poorest citizens do not even have a bank account (according to a 2009 FDIC survey, one-fifth of all U.S. households earning no more than $30,000 per year did not have a bank account). The wealthier you become, the more complicated your financial needs become.

The expansion of an affluent Asian class is an opportunity for European and U.S. banks, which have some expertise in wealth management, including institutions such as UBS (NYS: UBS) or JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) . Local banks such as Singapore's DBS Group Holdings (OTC: DBSDY) are also fighting for their piece of this lucrative market (incidentally, the report showed that Singapore overtook Hong Kong in terms of the number of high-net-worth individuals, as a direct result of Hong Kong's 17% decline in stock market capitalization).

All work and no play...
But what fun is being wealthy if all you do is save and worry about how to preserve your wealth? High-net-worth individuals -- dollar millionaires in terms of investable assets -- are ideal targets for purveyors of luxury goods. A friend of mine moved to Hong Kong in the mid-1990s and went on to found (and ultimately sell) a publishing company with titles aimed at ultra-high-net-worth individuals in Hong Kong, China, and the Asia-Pacific region (China Boating, LP Luxury Properties, Jet Asia-Pacific, etc.). He continues to manage the business and is in no hurry to return to France -- one of the only countries in the world where the wealthy pay taxes on income and capital and where the top marginal tax rate could soon rise to 75%. Instead, it's advertisers like French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (OTC: LVMUY) that come to him.

Other companies outside of banking and luxury brands stand to reap huge profits in Asia; in particular, our free report identifies "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World."

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