25 Oct 2015

NZ second richest country - global report

6:40 pm on 25 October 2015

New Zealand has been ranked second in the world for wealth in an annual report on 200 countries. The Credit Suisse report shows the richest one percent now own 50 percent of the entire world's wealth.

A bundle of New Zealand money.

A bundle of New Zealand money. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Credit Suisse's Global Wealth Report showed the richest one percent now owned 50 percent of the entire world's wealth.

The report put New Zealand second behind Switzerland.

Greg Fleming, who worked with Credit Suisse in Zurich for the past nine years, recently returned to this country, where he is now research strategist for First New Zealand Capital.

He told Radio New Zealand's Sunday Morning programme that wealth was on the rise here.

"People find that hard to believe because we don't have the image of ourselves as very wealthy. But we've just leapt over Australia on the median asset basis.

"That's partly because we've had such a strong run on our property prices.

"That's lifted New Zealand net wealth from around $US100,000 in 2000 to just touching $US400,000 now."

On current exchange rates, that is equivalent to an increase in net wealth - in New Zealand dollars - from $148,091 to $592,364.

Mr Fleming said if New Zealanders saved 10 percent of their income the country could be on the top for the next 50 years.

However, in an online post a writer on inequality, Max Rashbrooke, said he was not sure the figures were used correctly and warned they should be taken with a grain of salt.

He said figures used were not the most useful measure of wealth as they captured the size of the housing bubble.

Banks go where wealth grows

Greg Fleming said it was important for banks to know where wealth was being built around the world because they made about 80 percent of their revenue from only 20 percent of their private clients.

Knowing where wealth is growing was important so they could build branches in regions where they could capture the newly wealthy around the world.

He said there had been a huge growth in the world millionaire total - since 2000 another 150 million new "ultra high net worth people" have been added.

Mr Fleming also said it was important to distinguish between wealth and income - for example middle class status would not necessarily be lost if someone lost their job.

Poor are extremely poor

Mr Fleming said to be in the top 10 percent of the global wealthy, you need to have $US69,000 ($NZ102,182). With New Zealand's high house prices, many would qualify for that group.

And he points out the shocking disparity between the world's poor and the other half: to enter the top 50 percent, the level of wealth needed was a mere $US3200 ($NZ4738).

With a focus this year on middle-class wealth, the report noted it had grown more slowly than wealth at the top end, reversing the stability seen before the global financial crisis in 2008.

"These results reinforce our findings from last year's edition of this report, which argued that wealth inequality had widened in most countries in the years after the 2008 crisis," the report said.

However, it noted that the middle class would keep growing in emerging economies, especially in Asia.

A man sleeps rough on Auckland's waterfront.

A man sleeps rough on Auckland's waterfront. Photo: 123rf

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