High-net-worth individuals in developed markets are far more downbeat about global economic prospects than those in emerging markets, according to Barclays Wealth Insights Volume 11: The Changing Wealth of Nations.
The findings in this survey, released Monday, isn’t surprising since the wealthy in emerging market regions suffered far less from the recent downturn than those in developed markets.
The wealthiest, those with over $15 million in investable assets, versus those with over $1.5 million, were the most pessimistic, and women were also more pessimistic than men.
Among the most pessimistic countries about the economic outlook were Monaco, Japan, the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The most optimistic were Spain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Ireland and India.
That makes sense in countries like India where the economy is humming along, said Michael Dicks, Barclays Wealth’s chief economist, but in Ireland and Spain for example, optimism may come from a sense that these countries have hit bottom.
“I suspect that they’ve had it so bad that they have a lot of confidence that their own economies will come back. They assume the worst is over,” he said. “But they’re still pessimistic about the longevity of any pickup. They’re saying it will bounce back but not putting money on the table.”
As for the United States and the United Kingdom, it is understood that they’ve made it out of the hole, but many wealthy investors are questioning the longevity of the recovery, and whether they’ll fall into another hole, Dicks said.
All wealthy individuals reported being more pessimistic than economists about the outlook for the global economy. Nearly one in four survey respondents said that they expect the global economy to deteriorate this year and a little over one in three expect it to be broadly stable, according to the report. Meanwhile, three out of four professional forecasters are predicting decent or strong growth this year.
“You get a sense that high-net-worth individuals are relatively conservative and they’re more pessimistic than the average economist and much more defensive,” Dicks said. “I didn’t expect it to be that gloomy because most of the advice they’re getting is from those economists, who are saying it’s not a great depression and we are in a recovery, but the [survey respondents] are skeptical. Clearly they’re doubting these professionals and coming up with a view themselves.”
Overall, the global economic downturn has encouraged the wealthy to become more informed about their investments and play a more active role in decision-making. A quarter of respondents spend at least two to five hours a week actively investing their money.
“The notion of the wealthy as passive investors, who are keen to delegate the task to others, is clearly out of date,” the report said.
Advisors may have a bigger role to play with these investors who will need to test their knowledge and instincts. Indeed, twenty-seven percent of survey respondents say they are talking to their financial advisor more frequently than before the downturn.
“Investors want to try harder to understand the world and what’s gone on these last few years has come as a big surprise,” Dicks said. “Three quarters of this group have well articulated views about their outlooks and I think that means they’re healthily looking at the world and trying to put that in portfolios and test that out with advisors.”
Interestingly, despite recent tumult, high-net-worth investors continue to favor equities and real estate in an uncertain economy. Countries that are most optimistic about property and equities as investments in the next one and five years include Singapore, Australia, and South Africa. Countries that are most pessimistic include Ireland, Spain and Japan.
Generally, high net worth individuals are most pessimistic about government bonds, especially in developed markets, Dicks said. There’s very little belief in government bonds, especially in developed countries with public entitlements like Europe, the U.K., and Japan.
“It’s hard to imagine bonds coming down except in deflation,” he said. “Most people feel they want to get out of bonds, because rates will rise from here.”