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The Great Wealth Migration

Dominic Volek

Dominic Volek

Dominic Volek, CA(SA), FIMC, is Group Head of Private Clients at Henley & Partners and a member of the Executive Committee.

This year is shaping up to be a watershed moment in the global migration of wealth. As the world grapples with a perfect storm of geopolitical tensions, economic uncertainty, and social upheaval, millionaires are voting with their feet in record numbers, seeking greener pastures and safer harbors for their assets and family interests. The conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, far from being isolated and contained battlegrounds, have drawn in major world powers, and are threatening to escalate into broader regional and possibly even global conflagrations. At the same time, growing polarization and fragmentation across many of the world’s nations is eroding social cohesion more generally, fueling a rising sense of unease and anxiety.  

An unprecedented 128,000 millionaires are expected to relocate in 2024, eclipsing the previous record of 120,000 set in 2023. To put this in perspective, it's a 16% increase from the 110,000 who moved to a new country in the pre-pandemic days of 2019. This great millionaire migration is a canary in the coal mine, signaling a profound shift in the global landscape and tectonic plates of wealth and power, with far-reaching implications for the future trajectory of the nations they leave behind or those which they make their new home. As these moneyed migrants take flight, they carry with them not just their fortunes, but also their expertise, networks, and dynamism which has a direct impact on the economic vitality of any country. 

Harnessing millionaire migration for nation-building

In the high-stakes competition for global wealth, investment migration has emerged as a powerful tool for countries seeking to attract and retain the world's millionaires. These programs offer a mutually beneficial exchange: for investors, a golden ticket to a new life of stability and opportunity; for host nations, a vital injection of capital and talent to fuel economic dynamism. 

Digital composite of a futuristic rendering of the globe and two people shaking hands

The benefits are manifold. Investment migration provides a debt-free source of funding for governments, enabling them to finance key priorities from infrastructure to sustainability without burdening future generations. By tailoring these programs to their unique needs, countries can strategically direct capital inflows to where they will have the greatest impact, whether that's kickstarting new industries, revitalizing left-behind regions, or scaling up green energy projects. 

Millionaire migration also brings a host of spillover benefits, from job creation and knowledge transfer to reputational gains that can put a country on the map as a hub of innovation and opportunity. Just as nations vie to attract digital nomads with special visas, investment migration offers a proven path to secure the commitment and investment of the world's wealthy.

The transformative effects of investment migration

There is no doubt that investment migration can serve as a powerful mechanism to enable individual connectedness and economic diversification. By attracting wealthy residents and their capital, key sectors such as real estate, renewable energy, technology, and tourism tend to flourish. An influx of investment and skilled individuals can significantly contribute to the region’s economic transformation. 

The rise of the UAE is testament to this. With its sights firmly set on becoming the world's top wealth haven, the UAE is pulling out all the stops to attract millionaires, from an attractive golden visa offering and luxurious living to a business-friendly environment in a strategic location. The results speak for themselves: the UAE is poised to welcome a record net inflow of 6,700 millionaires in 2024, cementing its status as a dynamic sovereign wealth magnet.

On the flip side, some nations are grappling with a worrying exodus of wealth. China is forecast to see a net outflow of 15,200 millionaires in 2024 as slowing growth, geopolitical tensions, and the lure of overseas opportunities prompt many to seek pastures new. The UK, meanwhile, is bracing itself for a worrying net loss of 9,500 millionaires, driven by a perfect storm of Brexit fallout, political uncertainty, and a controversial overhaul of the non-domicile tax regime. The message is clear: in this new era of unprecedented millionaire migration, complacency is a luxury no nation can afford.

Navigating the new normal: Strategies for a world in flux

Looking ahead, the great wealth migration across borders shows no signs of slowing down. An estimated 135,000 millionaires are projected to relocate in 2025, underscoring the reality that in an age of uncertainty, mobility is the ultimate asset.

For countries seeking to ride this wave towards greater economic prosperity, a proactive and holistic approach to investment migration will be key. It's not enough to dangle tax breaks and golden visas; the winners in this race will be those who are able to craft compelling, 360-degree value propositions that cater to the full spectrum of millionaire drivers, from fortune protection and business growth to lifestyle and legacy.

The countries that adapt and innovate will be the ones that thrive in this new world. By harnessing investment migration as a catalyst for growth and transformation, nations can not only weather the storms of change but chart a course to a more prosperous, sustainable, and resilient future.

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