More than 51,000 people joined the ranks of the “ultra-wealthy” last year as the fortunes of the already very rich benefited from rising global stock markets and increased property prices during the pandemic.
The number of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – those with assets of more than $30m (£22.4m) – rose by a record 9.3% last year to 610,569, according to a report by the property consultants Knight Frank.
“By any of the measures that we track, whether luxury property prices, UHNWI populations or even private jet traffic, 2021 was a good year for those lucky enough to be the owners of property or other tangible assets,” said Rory Penn, the head of Knight Frank’s private office, through which he advises ultra-rich clients across the world.
“Notwithstanding uncertain times, we have still seen substantial wealth creation globally with the number of people with net wealth of US$30m or more increasing by almost 10% last year.”
The number of ultra rich people in the UK increased by 11% to 25,771 – more people than could fit in the football stadiums of Watford, Burnley or Brentford.
The number of Britons with assets of more than $30m has doubled since 2016, and Knight Frank predicts the total will rise to more than 32,000 by 2026. There are more than 3 million people in the UK classed as dollar ¡millionaires (£750,000), a 54% increase on five years ago.
The UK had the second-fastest rate of growth of ultra-rich people behind the US, where the number increased by 13% to 210,353. The ranks of the wealthy grew on every continent except Africa, where 17 people fell off the list, taking the total to 2,240.
Monaco stood out as the country with the most super-rich people per capita, with 199 people holding assets of $30m or more out of a population of just 39,000 – which works out as five people in every thousand. Just under seven in 10 people living in Monaco are dollar millionaires.
Monaco is home to several rich Britons, including the former Topshop boss Sir Philip Green and his wife, Tina; billionaire Brexit backer and petrochemicals tycoon Sir James Ratcliffe, property billionaires Simon and David Reuben; John Hargreaves, the founder and chairman of Matalan; John Caudwell, the billionaire founder of Phones4u; and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton.
Knight Frank’s report shows that on average the ultra-wealthy hold just under two-thirds of their wealth in property. Unsurprisingly, the most expensive property is found in Monaco, where homebuyers would need to spend at least $34m to join the top 1% of most expensive properties.
A million dollars buys just 14.6sq m of residential space in the Mediterranean principality, compared with 30.6sq m in London, or 256 sq m in São Paulo.
Conscious of the lack of space available to attract more billionaires to Monaco, Prince Albert II, the reigning monarch, is overseeing a $2bn (£1.5bn) scheme to reclaim six hectares (15 acres) of land from the sea.
The sovereign city-state – which is only slightly bigger than Regent’s Park in London – said it was embarking on the “offshore urban extension project” because it had run out of space for those seeking the “fiscal advantages” the tax haven offers.
The reclaimed land will allow the creation of 120 luxury homes selling for more than $100,000 per sq metre – more expensive than One Hyde Park in London and 15 Central Park West in Manhattan.
On average ultra-rich people own 2.9 homes, according to Knight Frank’s survey of private bankers and wealth advisers.