Despite market turbulence in the second half of 2007, the total wealth of the world's high-net-worth individuals rose 9.4% last year, to US$40.7 trillion, says the 12th annual World Wealth Report released by Merrill Lynch and the consulting and outsourcing firm Capgemini. That growth rate was a comedown from the 2006 rate of 11.4%.

   Last year was a tale of two macroeconomic environments--a positive first half and a turbulent second half. But through it all the global economy registered a solid 5.1% gain--albeit off slightly from the prior year's 5.3% increase--thanks to emerging markets. As a result, the number of high-net-worth individuals, or HNWI (net assets of at least US$1 million, excluding primary residence and consumables) rose 6% globally, while the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (net assets of at least US$30 million, excluding their primary residence and consumables) jumped 8.8%. 

   For the first time, the average assets held by the HNWI crowd topped $4 million. The biggest regional growth in that group occurred in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America, respectively, fueled in part by their growing clout as financial centers and commodity exporters.

   India experienced the biggest growth of HNWI people (22.7%), followed by China (20.3%) and Brazil (19.1%). 

   "While trends indicate opportunities exist for wealth management firms to tap into new growth markets," said Robert J. McCann, president of Global Wealth Management at Merrill Lynch, "success will go to those that recognize their existing service, delivery and technology strategies must be adapted and tailored to meet the unique needs of these target growth markets."