HNW Asset Allocation Trends 2018

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HNW Asset Allocation Trends 2018 draws on our Global Wealth Managers Survey to analyze HNW asset allocation strategies in 17 key markets. In particular, it examines the drivers behind investment choices now and over the next 12 months.

A search for yield has been the dominating theme over the past few years, which has resulted in a HNW portfolio heavily exposed to equity investments. However, after years of calm volatility returned to global markets in early 2018, and we are seeing increased levels of uncertainty as investors gauge whether the bull is running out of steam or just taking a breather. For now investors are sitting on the fence, and we do not anticipate any pronounced asset allocation shifts in the short term. But the onus is on wealth managers to ensure investors’ portfolios are prepared for either possibility. Client engagement and education will be key to ensure investors do not jump ship if markets turn sour.

Specifically the report –
– Discusses the drivers that determine HNW investment preferences.
– Interprets the macroeconomic, demographic, and attitudinal trends that are shaping HNW investment behavior.
– Provides a detailed overview of what the average HNW portfolio looks like across the globe and on a country level.
– Analyzes how HNW investment preferences are expected to change over the coming 12 months.
– Points out the various challenges increased levels of market volatility will pose over the next 12 months and how best to address them.
– Examines how wealth managers should design their investment service proposition based on changing demand trends.


– HNW investors in Asia Pacific are significantly more risk averse than their global peers, with an average equity allocation of 27% compared to 39% globally.

– 47% of market participants expect demand for alternatives to rise, compared to 22% who expect a drop in demand. The asset class is becoming more popular as a diversifier, and as the allure of bonds fades.

– 70% of wealth managers agree that HNW investors are increasingly open to new investment ideas. But increased levels of uncertainty are holding investors back.

– With risk aversion on the rise, the predictability of returns is becoming a more important determinant of investment choices. Wealth managers should place greater emphasis on dividend stocks and funds.

Reasons to Buy

– Understand investment trends and adjust your service proposition based on a detailed understanding of HNW investors’ investment preferences.

– Understand how to best promote investment products by learning what drives investment choices.

– Learn how and why investment preferences will change over the next 12 months.

– Understand the effects increased volatility has on customer churn rates and how to minimize the risk of customers changing providers.

– Understand how increased levels of risk aversion are affecting the global investor psyche as a result of increasingly uncertain investment conditions, and how best to address any worries investors may have.

– Give your marketing strategies the edge required and capture new clients using insights from our data on HNW investment drivers.

US Bank
Deutsche Bank
J.P. Morgan
Swiss Data Safe
Hard Asset Alliance
Mashreq Bank

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


1.1. Providers must prepare investors for an inevitable market downturn 2

1.2. Key findings 2

1.3. Critical success factors 2


2.1. 2018 promises to be an eventful year for wealth management and the wider financial services industry 9

2.2. Asset classes with strong performance are a natural lure for HNW investors 9

2.2.1. The global HNW portfolio remains relatively diversified 9

2.2.2. HNW investors move their investable assets where the growth is 10

2.2.3. No significant changes to HNW portfolios are forecast in the short term 12

2.3. HNW investors seek balance between liquidity and direct market exposure 13

2.3.1. ETFs are becoming increasingly popular 13

2.3.2. Equities: funds and ETFs outweigh direct holdings 13

2.3.3. Bonds: while the average HNW fixed-income portfolio is well-diversified, direct investments dominate 14

2.3.4. Cash and near-cash products: local currency deposits prevail as part of HNW investors’ cash investments, but there are exceptions 16

2.3.5. Property: offering REITs is a must in the HNW space 17

2.3.6. Alternatives: hedge funds are the preferred alternative investment product among HNW investors 18

2.3.7. Commodities: funds and ETFs are the go-to investment, but gold captures significant demand 19

2.4. Local conditions significantly influence HNW investors’ asset allocation preferences 20

2.4.1. HNW investors in North America are significantly exposed to risk 21

2.4.2. European HNW investors remain cautious regarding equities 22


3.1. Providers need to take the reins while investors sit on the fence 24

3.2. HNW investors are waiting to see how current events play out 25

3.2.1. Wealth managers need to prepare clients and their portfolios for more uncertainty 25

3.3. Capital appreciation opportunities remain the number one asset allocation driver 26

3.3.1. Volatility will cause customer churn, meaning now is the time to act 27

3.3.2. The hope of capital appreciation opportunities will ensure stable equity allocations in the West, but a more diversified approach should be taken 29

3.3.3. Precious metals will serve as a hedge in uncertain times 30

3.3.4. The lack of capital appreciation opportunities as a driver for cash and near-cash investments is a concern wealth managers have to address 32

3.4. Diversification is increasingly important as volatility picks up, but once again wealth managers have to take the lead 33

3.4.1. Achieving diversification is becoming an increasingly challenging endeavor 34

3.4.1. Risk assets will win the battle of diversifiers, but clients need to understand the potential pitfalls 34

3.4.2. Minimizing risks through the use of multiple wealth managers has become a popular approach 36

3.4.1. Geographic diversification has to become more important in homogenous markets 37

3.5. Clients’ aversion to risk is limiting wealth managers’ earning potential in Asia Pacific 38

3.5.1. Risk aversion driving demand for cash and near-cash investments creates retention issues 39

3.5.2. A perception of safety is driving real estate investments as clients remain uneducated about risks 41

3.6. The predictability of returns is set to become a more important driver if volatility persists 42

3.6.1. Wealth managers should put an increased focus on dividend stocks and funds 43

3.6.2. Weak rental yields in the developed world call for a reshuffle of investors’ property portfolio 44


4.1. Abbreviations and acronyms 45

4.2. Supplementary data 46

4.3. Definitions 51

4.3.1. HNW 51

4.3.2. Liquid assets 52

4.4. Methodology 52

4.4.1. GlobalData’s 2017 Global Wealth Managers Survey 52

4.4.2. GlobalData’s 2016 Global Wealth Managers Survey 52

4.4.3. Level of agreement calculation 52

4.4.4. Forecast demand/asset allocation calculation 52

4.5. Bibliography 53

4.6. Further reading 55


List of Tables

Table 1: HNW investment drivers by country: equities, 2017 46

Table 2: HNW investment drivers by country: bonds, 2017 47

Table 3: HNW investment drivers by country: cash and near-cash products, 2017 48

Table 4: HNW investment drivers by country: property, 2017 49

Table 5: HNW investment drivers by country: alternatives, 2017 50

Table 6: HNW investment drivers by country: commodities, 2017 51


List of Figures

Figure 1: The typical HNW portfolio is increasingly exposed to risk assets 10

Figure 2: Global markets grew steadily throughout 2017 11

Figure 3: The IMF’s Global House Price Index has reached pre-crisis levels 12

Figure 4: Direct equity investments constitute the single largest component, but taken together fund holdings dominate 14

Figure 5: Corporate investment-grade bonds form the largest component of HNW investors’ fixed-income investments 15

Figure 6: Local currency products are the most common type of cash investment 16

Figure 7: An increasing proportion of HNW wealth is locked up in property 17

Figure 8: Hedge funds are key to HNW investors’ alternatives portfolios 19

Figure 9: Funds form the largest component of HNW investors’ commodity investments 20

Figure 10: Equities are far more important in North America than elsewhere in the world 21

Figure 11: Capital appreciation opportunities still form the basis of investors’ asset allocation decisions 24

Figure 12: Uncertainty is holding investors back 26

Figure 13: Capital appreciation opportunities drive investments into equities and alternatives 27

Figure 14: A good track record is one of the most important means of client retention 28

Figure 15: Market volatility has the potential to cause higher churn rates 29

Figure 16: Investors in the West are particularly exposed to equity risk, betting on capital appreciation opportunities 30

Figure 17: Commodity indices have a long way to go to return to their peak 31

Figure 18: US Bank educates its client base about the effects of rising rates 32

Figure 19: Bonds are the go-to diversifier, but this is changing 33

Figure 20: Correlations between different combinations of asset classes vary significantly 34

Figure 21: Alternatives are becoming increasingly popular as a diversifier 35

Figure 22: HNW investors work with more than one wealth manager 37

Figure 23: Investors give little consideration to geographic diversification 38

Figure 24: Investors in Asia Pacific are particularly averse to risk 39

Figure 25: Chinese HNW investors are open to new investment ideas, but a lack of knowledge is holding them back 41

Figure 26: With the exception of a few countries, a perception of safety is a key driver for real estate 42

Figure 27: The predictability of returns is an equally strong driver for bonds, equities, and real estate 43

Figure 28: Rental income is of particular importance in Europe and North America 44

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