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Centi-Millionaires: A Wealth Band of Affluence and Influence

Dr. Juerg Steffen

Dr. Juerg Steffen

Dr. Juerg Steffen is CEO of Henley & Partners and author of definitive books on high-net-worth relocation to Austria and Switzerland.

Just how much money does one need to be considered ‘super-wealthy’ today? We would argue that to earn that status, the benchmark is holding at least USD 100 million in investable assets. Not long ago, in the late 1990s, USD 30 million was considered the fortune needed to meet this definition. However, asset prices have risen significantly since then, making USD 100 million the new benchmark.

At Henley & Partners, we refer to this fast-growing global elite of highly influential super-wealthy movers and shakers as ‘centi-millionaires’ or simply ‘centis’. Their numbers have more than doubled over the past 20 years, and there are currently 28,420 centis in the world, which is 11.5% more than there were 12 months ago. One-third of the world’s centi-millionaires live in 50 key cities across the globe, and almost two-thirds of these centi-millionaire rich cities are in countries with investment migration programs.

Why centi-millionaires matter

Centi-millionaires’ wealth has generally come from four sources: inheritance, selling off their small- to medium-sized enterprises, trading and investing in stock markets, and leading multi-nationals and highly successful tech companies. This wealth band is important to track as they are, in many respects, a good reflection and useful barometer when it comes to a country’s private wealth sector. Many economists consider private wealth to be a better indicator of a jurisdiction’s financial health than GDP, which does not take into account real estate or equity transactions. What is more, while there may be just a few or even no billionaires in some small countries or emerging markets, these nations can boast a sizable number of centi-millionaires, which is a far more accurate reflection of the power and influence of their ‘super-wealthy’ population as they outnumber billionaires by nearly 10-1 worldwide.

Smiling affluent man talking on the phone while getting out of a car with a private jet in the background

America and the UK: Home to the Top 4 centi cities

As we outlined in our inaugural Centi-Millionaire Report last year, at a country level, most centi-millionaires are concentrated in the USA, followed by the large emerging markets of China and India. Certain cities and regions are home to particularly dense centi-millionaire communities, and in our 2023 Centi-Millionaire Report, we reveal the Top 50 cities globally, with the most centi-millionaires.

The USA takes the top three spots, all of which have over 500 resident centi-millionaires: New York City, which is home to 775 centi-millionaires, the Bay Area with 692, and Los Angeles with 504. These leading cities have all grown the size of their centi populations in the past 12 months: New York’s has grown by 5.2%, the Bay Area by 11.1%, while the number of centi-millionaires in Los Angeles has ballooned by a remarkable 28.2%.

Chicago also made it into the Top 10 cities for centis, coming in at 9th place with 286 centi-millionaires, but this is a significant drop of 15.9% versus last year for the Windy City.

Overall, the USA has 12 cities in the Top 50, with a combined total of 3,311 centis, representing 11.7% of the world’s centi-millionaire population as of June 2023.

By contrast, the UK has only one city in the Top 50, London, which comes in 4th place worldwide with 388 centi-millionaires, representing 1.4% of the global centi population. Once the global center of affluence and influence, London appears to have lost its crown. A year ago, there were 406 centis in the UK’s capital city — a loss of 4.4% in just 12 months.

Asian cities dominate the Top 10

There is impressive representation from Asia in the upper rankings, with four Asian cities and territories among the world’s Top 10 centi-millionaire hotspots. Mainland China has two Top 10 cities: Beijing is 5th with 365 centi-millionaires and Shanghai 6th with 332. Beijing has gained just two centis since last year (0.6%) while Shanghai has lost 5.1%, dropping from 350 last year and making it the biggest loser in the Top 10 over the past 12 months.

Singapore in 7th place has 330 centis compared to 336 last year, which is a slight drop of 1.2%, but still an impressive number of super-wealthy inhabitants considering the geographic smallness of the city-state, which is packing a mighty punch as one of the world’s leading financial centers and wealth hubs.

Hong Kong (SAR China) in 8th place is home to 305 centi-millionaires, up a very healthy 8.9% since last year when it had 280. It is notable that the combined total of China and Hong Kong’s centis in the Top 50 is 1,224, representing 4.3% of the world’s centi population, although this is still less than half of the USA’s headcount.

Paris and Ile-de-France take 10th place in the Top 10 centi cities, boasting 280 resident centi-millionaires between them. Another nexus for the ultra-wealthy in France, Nice, is also in the Top 50 with 63 centis. France has 343 centis in the Top 50 cities, representing 1.2% of the global centi population.

Centi-millionaire growth forecast to flourish in Global South 

Looking at the projected growth in centi-millionaires over the coming decade, it is clear that Asia is going to feature even more prominently on this list in the years ahead.

Of the Top 50 cities, the e-commerce hub of Hangzhou in China is expected to see the highest growth in its centi-millionaire population in the next decade with a projected 95% increase, closely followed by the prominent tech hub, Shenzen (88%).

The emerging global business center of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and India’s largest commercial hub Delhi are projected to see the 3rd highest growth of 85% between now and 2033, while financial capital Mumbai is forecast to enjoy an 80% growth in its centi-millionaire community. Business-friendly Austin in the USA also has a very strong growth projection of 84% by 2033.

Dubai, with its vibrant and diversified economy, is not far behind Mumbai, with centi-millionaire growth of 78% projected over the next 10 years, followed by China’s main transport and trading nexus Guangzhou (76%), and the multi-business hub of Monaco (72%).

The numbers in Australia also look poised to increase sharply — by 67% in Melbourne, 60% in Sydney, and 57% in Perth. By contrast, centi-millionaire growth figures are forecast to be a sluggish 17% in Los Angeles, 12% in London, 6% in Chicago, and just 5% in Moscow.

Seasonal hotspots for centi-millionaires

With money no object and a penchant for travel, centi-millionaires tend to own multiple properties that they move freely between throughout the year, and certain cities attract them in high numbers during the peak holiday seasons, depending on whether they are seeking sunshine or the slopes.

As our seasonal cities data reveals, major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and London, which are all high up on the list of where centi-millionaires have second homes, see their populations expand even further. New York’s centi population swells from 775 to over 1,200 at peak times, while Los Angeles’ rises from 504 to over 950, and London’s more than doubles from 388 to over 800.

Prime property in vacation locations is also much sought-after. In the USA, the Hamptons attracts over 700 centis in season compared to just 30 resident centi-millionaires during the rest of the year. Miami welcomes over 650 centis in peak season (with just 165 resident centi-millionaires), while Palm Beach and West Palm Beach grow from 60 to over 400 super-wealthy sun-seeking centi-millionaires. The mountain resorts of Aspen and Jackson Hole are both home to over 200 centis in season compared to just 6 and 8 during the rest of the year, respectively.

On the French Riviera, Nice’s usual 63 centi-millionaires are joined by another 250 or more, rising to a population of over 300, while Portugal’s Golden Triangle in the Algarve surges from 20 to over 250 centis in summer. And more off the beaten track, two African seasonal centi-millionaire hubs are Cape Town, which sees over 100 centis in peak season compared to 25 the rest of the year, and Marrakech, which rises from 10 to over 100, while Bodrum in Türkiye gains over 100 centis compared to the usual 8.

Investment migration portfolios: A must-have for centi-millionaires 

Global mobility and owning a portfolio of alternative residences and citizenships has become an essential component of most centi-millionaires’ range of investments in recent years. Exposing themselves to the limitations of a single government, taxation structure, and legal system could have a negative impact on the preservation and growth of their wealth if the backdrop in their home country changes. Being able to swiftly move to another jurisdiction, if necessary, could prove critical if they wish to protect their wealth as well as the range of freedoms and personal access rights they enjoy.

For centi-millionaires in less developed countries, a portfolio of investment migration options also provides greater global mobility and visa-free access to a greater percentage of global GDP, better healthcare and education systems for their families, and increased safety and security. And for a newly emerging class of centi-millionaires — those who have made their money in the field of cryptocurrencies (our recent Crypto Wealth Report finds that there are currently 182 crypto centi-millionaires, with crypto holdings of USD 100 million or more) — it makes sense to gain access to jurisdictions with well-developed infrastructure that supports crypto adoption.

As expected, many governments are seeking to attract centi-millionaires to boost their economies. Singapore, with its high-end Singapore Global Investor Program, is explicitly targeting those with at least SGD 10 million to invest, incentivizing them with a business-friendly environment and a low corporate tax rate among other attractive benefits. Other countries setting their sights on the world’s super-rich include the UAE, which also has a residence by investment offering, and New Zealand, which has no inheritance tax. The New Zealand Active Investor Plus Visa Program requires an investment of between NZD 5 million and NZD 15 million over the course of four years.

Above all, centi-millionaires are motivated by the pursuit of freedom and independence, and over the coming years, we can expect to see more of them seeking alternative residences and citizenships through investment in order to secure and ensure it.

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