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Singapore ranks third in attracting world’s rich, after UAE and Australia

·7-min read


Singapore is Asia’s top wealth management centre, which should attract many more affluent individuals to relocate there in future (Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)

SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Asia’s prime hub of affluence, Singapore, continues to attract millionaires, mainly from the rest of Asia, according to the latest Henley Global Citizens Report, published on June 13. Singapore is also Asia’s top wealth management centre, which should attract many more affluent individuals to relocate there in the future.

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Net inflows of 2,800 are expected this year — an 87% increase compared to 2019’s figure of 1,500. This puts Singapore in third place, after the UAE and Australia. Among the top 10 countries with the highest inflow of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) are Israel, Switzerland and the US. The list includes Portugal, Greece, Canada, and New Zealand.

The forecast figures of the top 10 countries with the highest inflows of HNWI by Henley Global Citizens Report track private wealth and investment migration trends worldwide. It is published by international residence and citizenship investment advisory firm Henley & Partners.

In fourth place, just below Singapore is Israel, where the forecast figure for 2022 is 2,500, a significant increase of 79% since 2019. No country-specific figures are available for 2020 and 2021 owing to Covid-related lockdowns and travel restrictions.


Sources: Henley & Partners/New World Wealth

Australia – a perennial favourite

Australia consistently attracts large numbers of HNWIs. Independent wealth research company New World Wealth estimates that over 80,000 millionaires have moved to the country over the past 20 years. The HNWI migration figures focus only on people with a wealth of at least US$1 million ($1.39 million), and who stay in their new country for more than half of the year. In 2022, the net inflow to Australia is expected to hit 3,500 — the second-highest globally.

Although company tax and income tax rates in Australia are relatively high, unlike most other developed markets, Australia has no inheritance taxes. This encourages wealthy people to stay in the country and build their businesses for future generations.

New World Wealth’s in-house safety index rates Australia as one of the five safest countries in the world for 2021/2022, along with Switzerland, Malta, Iceland, and New Zealand. Neighbouring New Zealand is expected to receive a net inflow of 800 HNWIs in 2022.


Melbourne, Australia. The country consistently attracts large numbers of HNWIs (Credit: Bloomberg)

On the flip side, the 10 countries with the highest projected net outflows of HNWIs are Russia, China, India, Hong Kong and Ukraine. Brazil, the UK, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia are also among the top 10 (see chart below).


Sources: Henley & Partners/New World Wealth

Wealth emigration hurting China, Hong Kong

Wealth emigration is beginning to hurt in China, with net outflows of 10,000 HNWIs expected in 2022. “General wealth growth in the country has been slowing over the past few years,” says Andrew Amoils, head of research at New World Wealth. “As such, recent outflows of HNWIs may be more damaging than in the past. China’s deteriorating relationships with Australia and the US are also a major long-term concern.”

In Hong Kong (SAR China) HNWI departures continue albeit at a slower pace, with projected net millionaire outflows of 3,000 in 2022 (a 29% drop compared to 2019).

Brazil’s millionaire exodus is intensifying with net outflows of 2,500 HNWIs predicted — up 79% compared to 2019. India is expected to suffer a net loss of approximately 8,000 HNWIs in 2022, up 14% since 2019 when the net loss was 7,000. However, India produces far more new millionaires than it loses to migration each year.

The latest report shows that a tidal wave of private capital has left Russia and Ukraine. Russia has suffered its biggest emigration of millionaires over the past six months, with forecast net outflows of 15,000 by the end of 2022. This represents 15% of its HNWI population and is 9,500 more than in pre-pandemic 2019.

Russia’s invasion is in turn driving a steep spike in outgoing HNWIs from Ukraine, which is predicted to suffer its highest net loss in the country’s history — 2,800 millionaires (42% of its HNWI population) and a net loss of 2,400 more than 2019.


Adbu Dhabi of the UAE. The emirates have become the focus of intense interest among affluent investors (Credit: Bloomberg)

UAE – focus of intense interest

By contrast, the UAE has become the focus of intense interest among affluent investors and is expected to see the highest net influx of HNWIs globally in 2022, according to the report. Its net inflow is expected to hit 4,000 — a dramatic increase of 208% relative to 2019’s net inflow of 1,300. This is one of its largest on record.

It mirrors the UAE’s ascent in the Henley Passport Index rankings over the past decade as it focused on attracting tourism and trade by implementing a succession of mutually reciprocated visa waivers. The UAE is now doing the same with its competitive, agile approach to adapting immigration regulations to attract private wealth, capital, and talent.

Most hail from Russia, India, Africa, and the Middle East. Before the pandemic, the UAE traditionally attracted around 1,000 millionaires per year.

There are many reasons why wealthy individuals move to the UAE, an international business hub with a high-income economy and a reputation for being the safe oasis in the Middle East and Africa region, according to the report. The country is strong in numerous key sectors including financial services, oil and gas, real estate, travel and tourism, technology, and healthcare, with a first-class healthcare system. UAE residents stand to benefit from among the world’s most competitive tax rates, along with the likes of Monaco and Bermuda. In terms of lifestyle, the UAE is a renowned luxury hub, with top-end apartments and villas and world-class shopping malls and restaurants.


UK, US – losing their lustre

According to the latest data, destinations that traditionally attracted wealthy investors are losing their lustre. The UK, once touted as the world’s financial centre, continues to see a steady loss of millionaires, with net outflows of 1,500 predicted for 2022. This trend began five years ago when the Brexit vote and rising taxes saw more HNWIs leaving the country than entering for the first time. The UK has suffered a total net loss of approximately 12,000 millionaires since 2017.

The appeal of another financial giant, the US, is also dwindling fast. America is notably less popular among migrating millionaires today than pre-Covid, perhaps owing in part to the threat of higher taxes. The country still attracts more HNWIs than it loses to emigration, with a net inflow of 1,500 projected for 2022, although this is a staggering 86% drop from 2019 levels, which saw a net inflow of 10,800 millionaires.

‘Extremely volatile environment worldwide’

“The 2022 forecast [on migration figures] reflects an extremely volatile environment worldwide,” commented Dr Juerg Steffen, CEO of Henley & Partners. By the end of the year, 88,000 millionaires are expected to have relocated to new countries. This is 22,000 fewer than in 2019 when 110,000 people moved, Steffen adds (see Migration Trends chart).

Next year is expected to see the largest millionaire migration flows on record  — 125,000 — as affluent investors and their families earnestly prepare for the new post-Covid world, according to Steffen. Coupled with the ever-present threat of climate change, this will lead to an “as yet-to-be-revealed rearrangement of the global order”, according to Steffen.

Barometer for economic health

HNWI migration figures are an excellent barometer for the health of an economy, says Amoils of New World Wealth. “Affluent individuals are extremely mobile, and their movements can provide an early warning signal into future country trends,” he notes. “Countries that draw wealthy individuals and families to migrate to their shores tend to be robust, with low crime rates, competitive tax rates, and attractive business opportunities.”

Henley & Partners received the highest number of investment migration program enquiries on record in the first quarter of 2022 — an increase of 55% compared to the previous quarter, which was itself record-breaking. The top four nationalities currently driving demand are Russians, Indians, Americans, and Britons, and for the first time, Ukrainians are in the top 10 globally.

Historically, many wealthy individuals acquired residence rights or citizenship without moving to those countries, observes Dominic Volek, group head of private clients at Henley & Partners. “Recent turmoil is causing this to shift — more investors are considering relocating their families to other countries for a range of reasons, from safety and security to education and healthcare, to climate resilience and even crypto-friendliness,” he says.

Volek notes that nine out of the top 10 countries with projected net HNWI inflows in 2022 host formal investment migration programmes, which encourage foreign direct investment in return for the right to reside or citizenship. “Investors can now see the value of diversifying their domicile portfolios as the ultimate hedge against both regional and global volatility,” he adds.

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