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Social impact 'important' for most high net worth investors, study finds

By Michael Finnigan

The vast majority of high net worth investors consider social impact an important factor when choosing investments, but many are unsure who to turn to for advice on opportunities and execution, new research has revealed.

RBC and Capgemini's World Wealth Report, which surveyed more than 5,000 individuals, also found that strong economic and equity market performance has created 920,000 new millionaires worldwide in 2014.

The 19th annual study is based on the responses of high net worth individuals from 23 countries as well as a survey of more than 800 wealth managers across 15 major wealth markets.

Social impact was the main thrust of the research, which found that 92% of high net worth respondents ascribe importance to driving social impact by way of thoughtful investment; however, added that they have not identified a preferred source of advice.

Informal sources of information ranked highly among high net worth investors, according to the report, with investors just as likely to ask family members for insight about impact investing as well as wealth managers. The two categories captured a respective 31.5% and 31.3% of the vote.

Daniel Ellis, head of investments for the British Isles at RBC Wealth Management, said wealth management firms are not doing enough to address the needs of their high net worth clients.

“Our research found that 54% of high net worth individuals want more advice from their primary wealth managers, which is the highest figure for all professional advisers, and highlights that they have the opportunity to serve as the conduit into this overall professional landscape”.

Separately, the population of millionaires in Asia-Pacific has swelled to 4.7 million, bringing the grand total a hair's breadth above North America. The global high net worth wealth segment is expected to be worth $70 trillion by 2017.

The report also found that the ultra-high net worth community – those with more than £30 million of investible assets – are the primary driver for growth within the high net worth wealth segment in 2014.

Strong growth in Asia also allowed the ultra-high net worth community to expand their ranks by 8.6% in 2014, despite a decline in wealth in Latin America for the second year in a row.

Wealth managers looking to improve their services must improve clarity and consistency on social impact and bring in highly qualified members of staff to ensure they can offer real insight, the report said.

Ellis concluded: “To improve their services, wealth managers need to build more in-house capability, particularly bringing the social impact discussion into the very beginning of a goals based approach to wealth management. They can achieve this either by hiring directly or through partnering with third parties.”