The world’s richest people lost a combined $10tn (£8.3tn) last year as they suffered a triple shock – energy, economic and geopolitical.
The 218,000 people classed as “ultra-high net worth individuals” (UHNWIs) saw their combined fortune fall by 10% from $101.5tn in 2021 to $91.4tn in 2022, according to Knight Frank’s wealth report published on Wednesday. It is the biggest annual decline in the fortunes of the super-rich since the annual study was first published in 2010.
Liam Bailey, Knight Frank’s head of research and editor-in-chief of the wealth report, said that after years of huge gains the very wealthy had suffered a “historic shock”. “The Ukraine crisis fuelled the European energy crunch and supercharged already surging inflation,” he said. “As a result, 2022 saw one of the sharpest upward movements in global interest rates in history, leading to economic conditions that Collins English dictionary neatly dubbed the ‘permacrisis’.”
The report found that just four in 10 UHNWIs – classed as those people with a net worth of at least $30m including their main home – had increased the size of their fortune last year. “The overwhelming trend was negative,” the study said, with falls in the value of residential property, commercial property investments, fixed income, and “investments of passion” such as art or rare wines and whisky.
“The fall in wealth is unsurprising given the dramatic pivot in monetary policy that culminated in the worst performance for the traditional blended portfolio since the 1930s,” Bailey said.
Europeans suffered the biggest falls in net worth with an average decline of 17%, followed by Oceania down 11% and the Americas falling 10%. Africa and Asia, by comparison, recorded smaller declines of 5% and 7% respectively.
Despite the dips in their fortunes, the wealthy have still been dropping millions on new luxurious homes. In London and New York 43 homes changed hands for more than $25m each in both cities last year. That represents a 26% increase in sales above the “ultra-prime” threshold in London, but a 35% drop in New York. Los Angeles was in third place with 39 sales, followed by Hong Kong (28) and Miami (23).
“Despite rising economic headwinds and growing uncertainty, the world’s wealthy have been committing to luxury residential property, with London and New York the standout cities in demand for ultra-prime sales,” Bailey said. While a slowdown in high-end sales is likely this year, the reopening of China and ongoing appetite for lifestyle-led purchases will support activity.”