Investors Look to Greener Pastures

The 'World Wealth Report' found that more high-net-worth individuals are staying safe amid volatile markets, and also increasingly going green.

As investors faced financial turmoil and economic uncertainty intensified toward the end of 2007, high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) began to retrench their assets to less risky asset classes, says the report, released by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini (see Merrill Lynch Releases World Wealth Report). Cash/deposits and fixed income securities accounted for 44% of HNWI assets, up 9% from 2006. Fixed income alone saw an increase of 21% from 2006.

Also amid recent economic uncertainty, HNWIs are choosing to invest more locally, meaning non-U.S. investors have pulled out from the U.S. HNWI allocations to North America decreased slightly, according to the report.

Going Green

Whether perceived as an investment opportunity or an act of responsible citizenship, participation in green initiatives saw robust growth in 2007, according to the report. Socially responsible investing has proved lucrative, fueled by a global push and demand for green initiatives.

The total investment in clean technology increased to $117 billion in 2007, up 41% since 2005, the report says. The solar segment posted the highest growth at roughly 150% and produced the highest proportion of IPOs of any green sector in the last year. Growth in the green investment sector was spawned by investment vehicles backing green initiatives, such as mutual funds, exchange-traded products (ETFs) and other pooled products, and alternative investments.

HNWIs and ultra-HNWIs in the Middle East and Europe showed the most interest in this type of investing, with participation in 2007 ranging from 17% to 21%. Participation in North America showed much less participation, with only 5% HNWIs and 7% of ultra-HNWIs.

About half of HNWIs pointed to financial returns as the primary reason for going greener. The report projects that the trend toward green investing is likely to continue as more institutions of all classes recognize its growth potential and the sustainability problem looms over the collective mindset. Consequently, the report forecasts strong returns from green investing to occur in the long run.