Homes in Kensington, one of London's most expensive neighborhoods. Flickr/Klovovi

The favored locales of the 0.002 percent.

It’s not just that the one percent is on the rise: The locational prerogatives of the global super-rich are changing the face of some of the world’s greatest cities. Foreign buyers are, for example, buying up huge chunks of central London and Manhattan, helping to push those cities' already astronomical housing prices even higher.

But outside of these two leading superstar cities, what are the favored locales of the global elite?

One useful source is the recently released Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2015, which identifies the location of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI), each with a whopping $30 million or more in net assets. There are nearly 173,000 such individuals worldwide, making them an even more rarefied group than the "one percent." Indeed, these super-rich account for the upper 0.002 percent. Collectively, they hold just over $20 trillion in global wealth.

The map below, by my Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Isabel Ritchie, charts the global cities of the super-rich.

(Ritchie, MPI)

London is the world’s top location for the super-rich, with 4,364 people with $30 million or more in assets. Tokyo is second with 3,575, followed by Singapore (3,227), New York (3,008) and Hong Kong (2,690). The table below shows the top 20 cities with the most ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

Rank City Number of Super-Rich

Percentage of Total

Global Super-Rich

1 London 4,364 2.5%
2 Tokyo 3,575 2.1%
3 Singapore 3,227 1.9%
4 New York 3,008 1.7%
5 Hong Kong 2,690 1.6%
6 Frankfurt 1,909 1.1%
7 Paris 1,521 0.9%
8 Osaka 1,471 0.9%
9 Beijing 1,408 0.8%
10 Zurich 1,362 0.8%
11 Seoul 1,356 0.8%
12 Sao Paulo 1,344 0.8%
13 Taipei 1,317 0.8%
14 Toronto 1,216 0.7%
15 Geneva 1,198 0.7%
16 Istanbul 1,153 0.7%
17 Munich 1,138 0.7%
18 Mexico City 1,116 0.6%
19 Shanghai 1,095 0.6%
20 Los Angeles 969 0.6%

Things have changed since the last edition of the report. Now London is on top, besting New York City, which fell to fourth place. San Francisco, previously number four, has fallen out of the top 20 entirely. Singapore rises into the top 10, to number three, and Hong Kong is up three spots from 2013, to five. The top 10 also has two new European entrants: Frankfurt has the sixth most ultra-high-net individuals, and Paris has the seventh. Osaka, Beijing, and Zurich round out the top 10.

The dominance of Asian cities illustrates a larger trend. For the first time, Asia overtook North America as the region with the second-largest growth in ultra-high-net individuals. The wealthy in Asia also now hold more money overall than those in North America: $5.9 trillion compared to $5.5 trillion. However, Europe still reigns supreme, with the greatest growth in the number of super-rich and with the wealthiest super-rich overall. Europe’s high-net individuals hold $6.4 trillion.

But London, New York and Tokyo are very large cities. The picture changes when we control for population and track the locations of the global super-rich on a per capita basis.  The map below charts the trend.

(Ritchie, MPI)

Now, smaller cities dominate. Geneva tops the list, with 144 super-rich individuals per 100,000 residents, followed by Swiss counterpart Zurich, with 71. Home to fabled Swiss banks, these cities have long been the favored locations of global plutocrats. As the table below shows, Singapore and Hong Kong retain their high placement, ranking third and fifth, respectively. London drops to eighth, New York to 19th, Paris to 24th and Tokyo to 32nd.

Rank City

Super-Rich per

100k Population

1 Geneva 143.7
2 Zurich 70.8
3 Singapore 60.0
4 Frankfurt 42.9
5 Hong Kong 37.0
6 Auckland 35.7
7 Oslo 34.4
8 London 29.9
9 Munich 29.1
10 Hamburg 26.6
11 Rome 22.3
12 Dublin 21.0
13 Toronto 20.1
14 Edinburgh 20.0
15 Stockholm 18.9
16 Taipei 18.6
17 Sydney 15.9
18 Monaco 15.8
19 New York 15.0
20 Tel Aviv-Yafo 14.3

*****

Not surprisingly, the global super-rich are a highly mobile bunch. According to Knight Frank’s survey of some 500 leading bankers and wealth advisors across the globe, the world’s super-rich continue to flee Russia and Asia* to stash money in real estate in North American and European cities. Russians are the most likely to be looking elsewhere, as the table below shows.  

(Knight Frank)

The report also offers its forecast of the cities that will be favored by the global super-rich in the future. By 2024, it predicts, New York will be home to over 520,000 individuals worth more than $1 million, with Tokyo (508,000) and Beijing (350,000) not far behind.

And of course, there are reasons to worry. “The great cities are becoming elite citadels,” Simon Kuper wrote in the Financial Times back in 2013. Superstar cities, like New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore have evolved far beyond anything resembling gentrification to what he dubbed “plutocratisation.” “Global cities,” Kuper continued, “are turning into vast gated communities where the one percent reproduces itself.” This system exacerbates the growing and gaping divides in these cities, and also threatens the very creativity and diversity that has underpinned their growth in the first place.

*CORRECTION: A previous version of this post misstated that Australian ultra-high-net-worth individuals were especially likely to move. They're actually among the least likely to consider a move, according to the Knight Frank report.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    Amazon Should Just Build HQ2 In My Apartment

    Since no city submitted the perfect bid for the company’s second world headquarters, I put together my own.

  2. POV

    One of the Greatest Threats to Our Lifespans Is Loneliness

    What would society be like if health insurers and public bodies invested as much in encouraging social encounters as exercise and good diet?

  3. Life

    In Montreal, French Expats Find Language Doesn't Translate to Community

    More Parisians are moving to Quebec seeking lower rents, jobs, and an easy cultural fit. But as housing prices rise, so does resentment among the city’s locals.

  4. Raj Chetty
    Equity

    Why the Solutions to Economic Mobility Are Local

    The American Dream now comes down to a coin toss, explains economist Raj Chetty.

  5. Construction workers build affordable housing units.
    Equity

    Why Is 'Affordable' Housing So Expensive to Build?

    As costs keep rising, it’s becoming harder and harder for governments to subsidize projects like they’ve done in the past.