Dubai:The number of foreigners who have acquired more personal fortunes in the UAE is growing, with expatriates now making up a huge part of the country’s wealthy population, according to wealth management experts.
Households that fall under the affluent category, which has an estimated $135 billion (Dh495 billion) to $155 billion in investable assets, grew from 325,000 in 2009 to 335,000 in 2014.
People belonging to this wealth segment are mostly expatriates and are getting increased attention since they look set to outpace their richer peers. “This segment has been growing faster than the high-net-worth and ultra-high-net worth segments, ” strategy& said in its GCC private banking report.
"Expatriates and young population constitute the major category of the affluent investors segment," according to another report by Markaz.
Individuals in the affluent segment are third in rank in the hierarchy of wealth holders. They generally own about $1 million to $5 million in investable assets. Occupying the top spot, held mostly by UAE nationals are ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), followed by high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs).
Preeti Bhambri, founder of personal finance site MoneyCamel.com, said the growth in expatriate wealth has been buoyed by substantial personal investments in the UAE. Longer-staying expats, in particular, have learned to take risks and maximise returns on their incomes by making investments in business, property and stocks.
“Expats earning high salaries have grown their fortunes – some by making prudent investments in business ventures and a large percentage by investing in UAE property market at the right time. A large population of expats have bought properties in UAE and are well settled [here],” Bhambri told Gulf News.
Raghu Mandagolathur, senior vice president for research at Kuwait Financial Centre “Markaz”, said many expatriates are able to build significant savings because they are staying longer and taking on roles with competitive salaries.
“Expatriates are now occupying more skilled and professional jobs unlike in the 1970s when their population was more in unskilled labour. The new class of professionally qualified expatiates are driving the affluent segment growth in UAE,” Mandagolathur told Gulf News.
“[Although] salaries of expatriates are lower compared to nationals, their opportunity to generate income and invest in equities and real estate has led to the increasing number of affluent investors. The UAE is also one of the GCC economies that has higher proportion of expatriate population working for past few decades,” he added.
The latest report by Marmore Middle East and North Africa Intelligence, a fully owned subsidiary of Kuwait Financial Centre, has put the spotlight on the growing size of private fortunes in the UAE. It said that the increasing youth population, political stability, investor-friendly policies, as well as interest of expatriates to invest in UAE, has helped the country create wealth.
“UAE has been one of the relatively open economies in the region in terms of attracting businesses from abroad. Construction, real estate, banking and financial sector have been the sectors which has created the largest amounts of wealth for UAE HNWis,” Marmore said.
“Spending related to Expo 2020 is already underway in UAE and with only four years to go, developers and construction companies benefitting from the project have started to push ahead with their developments.”
The construction industry, in particular, is set to be buoyed further by the implementation of major projects, such as the Route 2020 Metro extension on the Red Line in Dubai, the expansion of Jebel Ali Port and Al Maktoum Airport.
However, while some foreigners are getting richer, others are still finding it difficult to save enough money to support their dependents and secure their own retirement. Bhambri said lack of proper money management skills remain one of the biggest obstacles to wealth building.
“Expats from different income groups have different challenges. Overspending and not creating a clear budget is the biggest hindrance to saving. However, some expatriates are unable to save as their salary cannot cover their basic living expenses,” she added.