BY Zoe Phoon
Kuala Lumpur’s overall rank, in terms of urban power, is 31st out of 40 cities ranked in Europe, North America, Asia, Australasia, the Middle East and Latin America, according to the Knight Frank City Wealth Index 2017. While, it sits on the bottom half of this list, Knight Frank reminds us that these are the 40-most prominent cities globally and to be factored on this list is already an achievement.
The real estate consultancy’s latest index offers a fresh perspective on the urban hotspots and networks that are shaping the realm of ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) now and in the future.
Based on current wealth, Malaysia’s capital and largest city is placed 37th spot, investment 17th, connectivity 22nd and future wealth 32nd.
Overall, the top 10 cities that matter most to the world’s most wealthy are London ranked 1st (Europe), New York 2nd (North America), Hong Kong 3rd and Shanghai 4th (Asia), Los Angeles 5th (North America), Singapore 6th (Asia), San Francisco 7th (North America), Beijing 8th and Tokyo 9th (both in Asia) and Chicago 10th (North America).
How other global cities stack up
The other 30 cities are Sydney ranked 11th (Australasia), Paris 12th (Europe), Frankfurt 13th (Europe), Seoul 14th (Asia), Taipei 15th (Asia), Dubai 16th (the Middle East), Geneva 17th and Zurich 18th (both Europe), Houston 19th (North America), Melbourne 20th (Australasia), Mumbai 21st (Asia), Toronto 22nd (North America), Moscow 23rd (Europe), Dallas 24th and Miami 25th (both in North America), Shenzhen 26th (Asia), Washington DC 27th (North America), Munich 28th (Europe), Osaka 29th (Asia) and Atlanta 30th (North America).
The cities that followed are KL 31st (Asia), Sao Paulo 32nd and Mexico City 33rd (both in Latin America), Amsterdam 34th (Europe), Delhi 35th (Asia), Rome 36th (Europe), Bangkok 37th (Asia), Tel Aviv 38th (the Middle East), Seattle 39th (North America) and Jakarta 40th (Asia).
Knight Frank says the obvious response to identifying the world’s leading wealth centre is to look at where the wealthy live.
On this basis, the answer is New York. The city’s 6,570 UHNWI residents easily outran London’s still respectable 4,750.
However, Knight Frank says that shows only part of the picture.
The world’s wealthy are a footloose group and the place they call home is only a starting point when trying to unravel the locations that most resonate with them.
The City Wealth Index uses four critical measures to identify the cities that matter to the wealthy. These are:
 Current wealth – based on the current population of UHNWIs.
 Investment – the total amount in US dollars of private investment in property during 2016, weighted in favour of those markets with a high proportion of cross-border inbound investment.
 Connectivity – the number of inbound and outbound first and business class flights in 2016.
Knight Frank uses data assembled exclusively for The Wealth Report 2017 showing the number of first and business class passengers travelling between key global cities.
With that, it says it is able to see the connections between cities in a far more accurate way than before.
For example, Miami’s status as a hub for Latin American wealth is clearly shown, as are the vital roles that London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore play in this critical global network.
 Future wealth – this is a forecast of each city’s UHNWI population in 2016, weighted according to findings of Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey.
Based on these four factors, London is just ahead of New York overall with top scores for both investment and connectivity.
New York leads on both current and future wealth.
But from a European perspective, Knight Frank says, London is the only European city in its top 10. Except for Moscow and London, all European cities score lower for future then for current wealth.
It notes that future wealth concentrations and investment firepower look set to be dominated by a tussle for supremacy between Asian and North American cities.
Hong Kong and San Francisco, the third and fourth largest concentrations of wealth today, are likely to be eclipsed by the rising fortunes of Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing.
These three cities are expected to see their wealthy populations grow rapidly over the next decade, Knight Frank adds.
Private aviation, education, philanthropy high priorities
Meanwhile, Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey reveals that private aviation, education and philanthropy are all high on the agenda for UHNWIs.
Latin America’s wealthy residents, perhaps worried about the risk of kidnapping, are the biggest users with 40 percent opting to go private.
Only 4 percent of Australasian UHNWIs regularly choose to take a private jet.
In Asia, their usage still lags behind the region’s rapid rise in wealth creation. Only 9 percent of UHNWIs routinely travel non-commercial flights.
On education, the survey shows UHNWIs from a growing number of countries are choosing to educate their children overseas.
One respondent said having their children make friends with lots of people from lots of different nationalities is considered very attractive.
On philanthropy, Knight Frank says the results of previous Attitudes Surveys have consistently indicated that philanthropy is becoming more important to UHNWIs around the world.
In its latest Attitudes Survey, a respondent who is adviser to her bank’s clients said she is seeing more wealthy families consider the social and environmental impact on the businesses they own or the investments they make.
Zoe Phoon is a freelance business and lifestyle writer that can be reached at [email protected]