U.S. wealth, measured in assets under management, has fallen farther than its transatlantic cousin's.
As market participants reflect on the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, so emerges the sobering consequence of the market crash that followed: North America's wealth has now fallen the most out of any other region in the world, allowing Europe to step up to the plate as the world's richest continent, reports Forbes.com.
North America, defined as the United States and Canada, had $29.3 trillion in assets under management in 2008, while Europe had $32.7 trillion, according to a survey by the Boston Consulting Group.
North America had the steepest decline of all regions last year, with total wealth as measured by assets under management dropping by 21.8%. One reason is the region's heavy investment in shares: North America still has the highest proportion of wealth held in equities, according to Boston Consulting, at 38% in 2008. That proportion had been even higher in 2008, at 50%.
Latin America was the only region where wealth increased, with assets under management growing by 3% in 2008.
The number of millionaires around the world fell to 9 million from 11 million, the survey said, and the drop was steepest in both North America and Europe, where the number of millionaires dropped by 17.8%. The United States still has the most millionaire households though, at nearly 4 million.
Though Europe has been more resilient than the United States when it comes to assets under management, the region's offshore financial centers face continued difficulty in the coming years.
Switzerland, whose banking secrecy until recently made it a magnet for the world's wealthiest people to store their assets, is seeing its total assets under management dwindle as the United States lobbies for the country to hand over details of suspected tax evaders. (See "Switzerland Caves In To IRS Demands.")
"Once their tax and legal advantages evaporate, so too will their appeal," said Boston Consulting partner Peter Damisch of established tax havens like Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. He believes other non-traditional offshore centers, particularly those in Asia like Singapore and Hong Kong, are poised for growth.
For now, Switzerland still remains the world's largest offshore financial center, accounting for $1.8 trillion, or 28% of the world's offshore wealth last year.
Source: Maritime and Energy.com