The barriers to wealth creation are rapidly dissolving around the world, opening up opportunities for individuals from all social backgrounds.
The shift from manufacturing to service industries has pushed down capital barriers to setting up a business, while even in manufacturing, excess capacity has made it easier to keep startup costs low. Money is being made in back rooms by ebay traders, and the boom in buy-tolet and property prices has spawned a whole new type of entrepreneur. No longer are people content with one job; instead, many juggle different roles in the search for wealth.
As a result of these democratising influences, traditional providers of services to the wealthy, from luxury goods companies to private banks, are having to adapt to this transformation in the scale and nature of the wealth landscape.
“The wealthy come from all walks of life today,” Franco Cassar of Barclays told B2B.
“However the dominant trend in the past few decades has been the growth in new wealth through enterprise and endeavour. With this change come new challenges and opportunities. New wealth can benefit massively from specialist wealth management services, as they tend to lack the familial infrastructure and background that ‘old wealth’ can draw upon to manage their assets.”
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In the UK, 2001 was the first year in which there were more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 16.
An ageing population in which individuals may be expecting to spend up to one-third of their lives in retirement will also need a different attitude to investment in order to fund this more dynamic lifestyle.
“Increasing longevity and changing family dynamics mean a different outlook,” said Cassar.
“Money management services have to be as flexible as possible to cope with unforeseen circumstances.”
Certainly, the tools to manage investment are now more accessible. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the range of investment vehicles available, from covered warrants and spread betting to venture capital trusts, and technology has made it easier than ever for potential investors to compare benefits and actively manage their portfolios.
The result of all this has been a gradual broadening of attitudes to investment.
There is a growing realisation amongst the wealthy have that equities are only one asset class. Financial institutions have realised they need to offer a broader range of non-correlating assets.
Despite this trend, regional biases to investment still remain. Wealthy investors in the UK are more likely to focus on amassing portfolios of property, whereas the Japanese are far more likely to put money in deposit accounts, and wealthy Europeans will probably be more interested in bonds.