The turmoil on the financial markets and economic uncertainty took its toll on the world's richest who saw their overall financial wealth dip 1.7 per cent in 2011, according to a report Tuesday by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management (TSX:RY).
The drop for those with investable assets of US$1 million or more, excluding their primary residence and other certain assets, was the first decline since the 2008 financial crisis when it dropped 19.5 per cent.
"While more people surpassed the US$1 million disposable income level in 2011, the aggregate wealth of high net worth individuals declined overall, as market volatility took its toll," said George Lewis, group head of RBC Wealth Management.
"It is significant that for the first time this year there are now more high net worth individuals in Asia-Pacific than in any other region. However, losses in key markets such as Hong Kong and India meant that wealth contracted in Asia-Pacific overall."
The report said the number of high net worth individuals increased by 0.8 per cent to 11 million in 2011. That compared with a gain of 8.3 per cent in 2010.
However, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals, those with more than US$30 million or more in investable assets, fell 2.5 per cent last year as that group's wealth slipped 4.9 per cent.
The drop for uber-rich came as Statistics Canada said last week that average Canadians saw their household net worth rise to $185,800 in the first quarter from $182,900 the previous quarter, mostly due to gains in the value of stock investments and pension assets.
However, Statistics Canada also said that the ratio of debt to personal disposable income rose to 152 per cent last quarter, up from 150.6 at the end of 2011.
The Capgemini-RBC report Tuesday found that the number of high net worth individuals in Asia increased 1.6 per cent to 3.37 million in 2011, compared with 3.35 million in North America.
However, those in North America held a total of $11.4 trillion compared with $10.7 trillion in the Asia-Pacific region.
The report also suggested that 2012 will be a volatile year as the European sovereign debt crisis continues to roil markets, while the U.S. economic recovery appears to be stalling and the Chinese economy slows.