The Louis XIII casino and hotel in Macau will be something to marvel at even in the midst of one of the most gaudy and ludicrous cities in the world.
This $1bn resort is expected to have a giant ruby coloured illuminated “jewel” above its entrance and will charge a minimum HK$10,000 (US$1,290) a night for the most basic of its 236 rooms. The smallest bets on its 66 gaming tables will be HK$5,000 and shopping at the Graff Diamonds store and other luxury outlets in its mall will be by appointment only.
Welcome to the world of Asia’s rich.
Asia is producing more new wealth than any other part of the world at any point in history. Over the past five years, the assets of rich individuals have grown at triple the rate of the wealthy elsewhere, while the number of rich people has increased by twice that of other regions, according to the recent annual survey by Capgemini and Royal Bank of Canada.
Their number grew by almost 10 per cent to reach 3.7m last year, according to the survey, while their wealth expanded by 12 per cent to $12tn.
For “ultra-high-net-worth” people, who have more than $30m in net assets, the story is a little different. More people from the US and Europe entered this club in the past year than from anywhere else – the population in China and Brazil actually declined slightly– according to research by Wealth-X and UBS.
There are only 199,235 such individuals in the whole world, but unsurprisingly they are the main focus of private banks and wealth managers. They will often have $20m tied in a business, with $5m in property and $5m to play with, says Mykolas Rambus, chief executive of Wealth-X.
“The reason this market is so lucrative is that a lot of the wealth is not very liquid yet,” he says. “They are likely to have a monetising event within a couple of years, like a listing, and they tend to spread their wealth around among a number of banks.”
There are many more potential clients among those with $5m or less, but they might only have liquid assets of $250,000 or less. “You cannot make money out of that in today’s high cost regimes,” Mr Rambus adds.
The newly rich can be much more demanding clients for private banks and other wealth managers, partly because they can take some convincing that a service they have never used or thought about is worth paying for.
On top of this, as they are normally still tied in with their businesses, their investment expectations are for much higher returns than those who have been wealthier for longer and are more interested in preservation.
“For the new rich, investments in wealth management compete directly with their businesses for capital, so any investment needs to generate a higher return than they could get by reinvesting in the company,” says Kathryn Shih, head of UBS Wealth Management Asia Pacific. “Also, they have a home bias; they like to know the companies they are going to invest in.”
Of course, those whose wealth is really new are also more interested in flaunting it – or at least buying some of the trappings such as cars, watches, properties and so on.
But private banking executives say these things are bought early – and often with borrowed money – by the merely affluent, rather than the really rich.
For those with $30m or more, the first thing they want to buy once they hit that bracket is an aircraft, according to Bassam Salem, chief executive of Citi’s private bank in Asia.
“The newly rich are a bit more exuberant in terms of showing their wealth initially,” he says. “But it takes a little while to become ultra-wealthy for most. The richer you are, the less you want to show it in many countries.”
The exception to this is mainland China, where more people have become vastly rich in a much shorter time because of the explosive pace of growth in recent years. The average age of Citi’s ultra-rich clients in Asia excluding Japan is about 70, according to Mr Salem, whereas in China it is 35.
Mr Rambus makes a similar observation, noting that the average age of millionaires in China is about 33, but that of the world’s ultra-wealthy is 52.
In spite of cathedrals to excess such as the coming Louis XIII resort in Macau, Mr Rambus says the super wealthy in Asia, as in other parts of the world, are becoming less visible in terms of splashing the cash.
“There are many countries where visibility is not good culturally and where it is becoming less advisable if you want to keep your wealth,” he says.
So, once the Louis XIII opens to its exclusive clientele in 2015, it is more likely that anyone who makes a noise about having stayed there is perhaps either lying, or at the lower end of that casino’s clientele.
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