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Growth in global wealth remains limited in 2016 – Brexit vote wipes USD 1.5 trillion off UK household wealth

Credit Suisse Research Institute publishes Global Wealth Report 2016

The Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI) today published its seventh annual Global Wealth Report. According to the publication, the overall growth in global wealth remained limited in 2016, continuing the trend that emerged in 2013 and contrasting sharply with the double-digit growth rates witnessed before the global financial crisis of 2008. In the mid-term, only moderate acceleration is expected. Switzerland once again ranked as the global leader in terms of average wealth per adult in 2016.

As the latest edition of the CSRI Global Wealth Report shows, total global wealth in 2016 edged upwards by USD 3.5 trillion to a total of USD 256 trillion (or 1.4%), a rise very much in line with the increase in the world’s adult population. Accordingly, average wealth per adult of USD 52,800 remains in line with last year’s figures.

Table 1: Changes in total household wealth, mid-2015–2016, by region (see report for full table)  


Total wealth 2016 in USD bn

Change in total wealth in USD bn

% change





















Latin America




North America








Source: James Davies, Rodrigo Lluberas and Anthony Shorrocks, Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016

Brexit vote hits wealth

The UK suffered a significant drop in wealth in 2016, with USD 1.5 trillion being wiped off household wealth in response to the Brexit vote, which triggered a sharp decline in exchange rates and the stock market.

Michael O’Sullivan, Chief Investment Officer of International Wealth Management at Credit Suisse, stated: “The impact of the Brexit vote is widely thought of in terms of GDP but the impact on household wealth bears watching. Since the Brexit vote, UK household wealth has fallen by USD 1.5 trillion. Wealth per adult has already dropped by USD 33,000 to USD 289,000 since the end of June. In fact, in US dollar terms, 406,000 people in the UK are no longer millionaires.”

Japan rises, distribution of Chinese wealth growth more unequal

The Global Wealth Report also highlights the impact of adverse currency movements, which caused wealth to fall in every region except Asia-Pacifici. The highest rise in wealth amongst individual countries was achieved by Japan with a total increase of USD 3.9 trillion, followed by a USD 1.7 trillion rise in the US. Switzerland once again topped the rankings in terms of average wealth per adult. Despite a decline in average adult wealth, its leading position remains unchallenged.

Loris Centola, Global Head of Research of International Wealth Management, said: “The consequences of the 2008-2009 recession will continue to have a material impact on growth, which is pointing more and more towards a long-term stagnation. The emergence of a multi-polar world, confirmed by the impact of the Brexit vote in the UK and by the US Presidential election, is likely to exacerbate such a trend, which could possibly lead to a new normal lower rate of wealth growth.”

Key themes addressed in the Global Wealth Report include:

Wealth outlook

  • The growth in wealth has fallen but we expect moderate acceleration and estimate that total global wealth will reach USD 334 trillion by 2021.
  • Developing economies are likely to outpace the developed world in terms of wealth growth. However, they will only account for just under one-third of growth over the next five years. At present, they account for around 18% of global household wealth, up from just 12% in 2000.
  • China is expected to contribute more than half of the forecast growth in emerging economies, while more than 7% will come from India.

Trends in the number of millionaires

  • The number of millionaires globally has increased by 155%, while the number of UHNWIs has risen by 216%, making them by far the fastest-growing group of wealth holders.
  • The 12.4 million millionaires in the world in 2000 were heavily concentrated (96%) in high-income economies. Since then, 20 million ‘new millionaires’ have been added to this total, of whom approximately 2.6 million – 13% of the total additions – come from emerging economies.
  • This century, no other segments of the wealth pyramid have developed as significantly as the millionaire and UHNWI segments.
  • The number of millionaires is projected to reach 45.1 million by 2021, while the number of UHNWIs could reach 208,000, up from 141,000.

Table 2: Number of millionaires in 2016 and 2021 by regions


(thousand) 2016
(thousand) 2021






















Latin America




North America




Source: James Davies, Rodrigo Lluberas and Anthony Shorrocks, Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016, Credit Suisse Research

The wealth pyramid

  • Discussions of wealth holdings often focus predominantly on the top tail. The Global Wealth Report provides a more complete and balanced picture, arguing that the base of the wealth pyramid and its middle sections are interesting in their own right.
  • One reason is the sheer size of numbers within these parts of the wealth pyramid and their political power. Their combined wealth of USD 35 trillion also yields considerable economic opportunities, which are often overlooked. Addressing the needs of these asset owners can drive new trends in both the consumer and financial industries.
  • A complete wealth pyramid captures the contrasting circumstances between those with net wealth of USD 1 million or more in the top echelon, and those lower down the wealth hierarchy.
  • China, Korea and Indonesia are examples of countries where individuals have been ascending rapidly through the wealth pyramid.
  • India has not shown similar progress to date but has the potential to grow rapidly in the future from its low starting point.

Bottom billion

  • This year's special topic is the base of the wealth pyramid. Relatively little is known about this group of people, partly because data is incomplete and partly because discussions on wealth tend to concentrate on the top of the pyramid.
  • The lower half of global wealth distribution consists mostly of adults from India, Africa and parts of the Asia-Pacifici region. However, the past 20 years have seen an increasing incidence of low wealth in high-income countries.
  • An estimated 9% of adults globally are net debtors, which is a worrying statistic, given that interest rates are near multi-year lows.


  • The Global Wealth Report estimates that the top percentile of wealth holders now own 50.8% of global household assets, which is above the levels of 2000.
  • Changes in wealth inequality happen slowly, making it difficult to identify the drivers of these trends. However, the value of financial assets – especially company securities – are likely to be an important factor because wealthier individuals hold a disproportionate share of their assets in financial form.
  • The future implications of this correlation are especially significant. If equity prices do not rise as fast in the years ahead, and the share of financial wealth stabilizes – or even declines – then the rise in wealth inequality seen in recent years may halt, and possibly reverse.

About the CSRI Global Wealth Report

The seventh edition of the Global Wealth Report published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute provides the most comprehensive and reliable source of information available on global household wealth. Despite the significance of global household wealth for economic activity, data regarding both the level and the distribution of global household wealth is surprisingly incomplete. This report aims to bridge that gap by assembling a unique database that combines published information and the best available estimates where data does not exist. The Global Wealth Report is compiled from data on the wealth holdings of 4.8 billion adults across more than 200 countries – from billionaires in the top echelon to the middle and bottom sections of the wealth pyramid, which other studies often overlook. The robust methodology, established over many years of analysis, provides transparent information on the Global Wealth Report’s underlying sources and their quality.

About the Credit Suisse Research Institute

The Credit Suisse Research Institute is Credit Suisse's in-house think tank. The Institute was established in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis with the objective to study long-term economic developments, which have – or promise to have – a global impact within and beyond the financial services. 
For more information, visit: www.credit-suisse.com/researchinstitute.

For a copy of the Global Wealth Report 2016, please visit: www.credit-suisse.com/gwr
Full information on sources and methodology is also provided in the Global Wealth Databook 2016.

i Asia-Pacific (excluding China and India)