The rich expand their holdings and increase in number: Study

(REUTERS) - The number of millionaires in the world jumped 9.2 per cent to 12 million last year, in part because of simultaneous strength in the stock, bond and real estate markets, according to a study of the high-net-worth population.

The survey, released on Tuesday by RBC Wealth Management and Capgemini Financial Services, tracked high-net-worth people, whom it defined as those with more than US$1 million (S$1.25 million) that they can invest.

North America was home to the highest number of millionaires - 3.7 million. But the study projected that the Asia-Pacific region, which held the top spot in 2011, would reclaim it.

Part of the strength in North America came from rising equities markets - the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index gained 13 per cent in 2012. North American investors put 37 per cent of their money into stocks, a higher proportion than people in the Asia-Pacific region, where investors tend to be more conservative, the study said.

The amount of wealth held by the world's richest people also increased substantially, rising 10 per cent to US$46.2 trillion, well above the pre-economic crisis level of US$40.7 trillion in 2007. The study forecast high-net-worth wealth would increase 6.5 per cent annually to US$55.8 trillion by 2015, mainly because of growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

The survey found that 53 per cent of wealthy United States individuals would prefer to have a single firm handle their financial accounts. However, a 2011 study from Boston-based research firm Aite Group showed more than half of high-net worth investors held their money in four or more financial institutions.

"Having one super-adviser would be preferred, but finding someone who can do that well is hard," said Aite analyst Sophie Schmitt.

The RBC-Capgemini survey polled more than 4,000 high-net-worth people globally in February and March, including 736 Americans.

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