ZURICH, SWITZERLAND--(Marketwire - October 4, 2007) - Global wealth grew by 7.5 percent in 2006 to reach $97.9 trillion, measured in local currencies. This increase marked the fifth consecutive year of expanding wealth, according to a new study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Despite the industry's sustained growth and strong performance, wealth managers still have plenty of room to grow profitably. But as they pursue opportunities in rapidly developing regions such as Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East, they face a host of challenges that require careful planning, the report cautions.

"Tapping Human Assets to Sustain Growth: Global Wealth 2007" -- BCG's seventh annual global-wealth report -- is based on a comprehensive market study of wealth in 62 countries (representing more than 96 percent of global GDP) and a benchmarking survey of 111 wealth managers who oversaw almost $10 trillion in client assets and liabilities. Among the findings:

Global Market Sizing. Wealth remained concentrated in certain regions. North America (the United States and Canada) and Europe again had the deepest pools of wealth, at $36.2 trillion and $33.0 trillion, respectively. "Together, these countries accounted for 27 percent of all households and 71 percent of global wealth," said Christian de Juniac, coauthor of the report and a BCG senior partner. The next-largest wealth markets were Japan and the rest of Asia-Pacific, with $11.9 trillion and $10.6 trillion in assets under management (AuM), respectively. The smallest markets were Latin America, with $3.4 trillion in AuM, and the Middle East and Africa, with $2.9 trillion in AuM.

China and Brazil had the highest compound annual growth rates in AuM from 2001 to 2006, followed by four countries of Central and Eastern Europe: Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. China's wealth market is expected to outpace all others over the next five years, with a projected growth rate of 17.4 percent per year, well above the global rate of 5.6 percent.

The number of millionaire households grew by 14.0 percent in 2006, to 9.6 million. "These were the richest 0.7 percent of households, and they owned $33.2 trillion -- or about one-third -- of global wealth," said Bruce Holley, another of the report's authors and a BCG partner. "North America was home to nearly half of all millionaire households, Europe had about one-quarter, and Asia-Pacific accounted for about one-fifth."

The United States had, by far, the highest number of millionaire households, followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Remarkably, China ranked fifth, ahead of major European economies such as France and Italy.

The Middle East. The countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- represent an attractive, high-profile wealth market. The average AuM of the region's wealthy households (more than $100,000 in AuM) was close to $1 million in 2006, compared with the global average of less than $400,000. At the same time, however, this market is challenging and highly competitive.

"Intensified competition has led to range of issues," de Juniac said, "including margin pressure, eroding prices, product commoditization, and a tightening market for talent. Foreign players must contend with increasingly competitive Islamic banks, whose products not only comply with shari'a, or Islamic law, but also -- in many cases -- mirror both the performance and variety of conventional offerings."

Performance Benchmarking. Wealth managers in BCG's benchmarking survey had a median pretax profit margin of 34.7 percent, and fewer than 5 percent of participants reported a loss. The survey uncovered broad patterns of profitability across regions and business models. The median pretax margin of North American brokers, for example, was less than one-third that of European offshore players.

"Despite these patterns," said Holley, "we also found that strong performance transcended a player's region and business model. What mattered more were players' efforts to manage the most important drivers of performance, such as the growth of new assets, the productivity of relationship managers (RMs), and the cost base."

Tapping Human Assets. Although a wide range of factors contribute to a wealth manager's performance, the most decisive factor is often its human assets. "Human assets can have a particularly strong impact on organic growth, a chronically underappreciated lever for performance," de Juniac said.

The report found wide variations in performance among RMs catering to the same markets and regions, which suggests that most players have tremendous potential to grow by getting more from their people. The report details proven actions that will allow wealth managers to do this. The actions are grouped around three themes: improving sales force productivity, reinvigorating and broadening the role of the team leader, and managing and developing human assets.

To receive a copy of "Tapping Human Assets to Sustain Growth: Global Wealth 2007," or to schedule an interview with one of the authors -- Victor Aerni, Christian de Juniac, Bruce Holley, and Tjun Tang -- please contact Eric Gregoire at + 1 617-854-4570 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com.

About The Boston Consulting Group

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Contact Information: Contact: Eric Gregoire + 1 617-854-4570