View from City Road: The elderly have money to play with

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The Independent Online
By far the biggest part of investable British wealth belongs to the elderly, according to a survey out this week, which puts their share of the pounds 136bn national pool of liquid investment assets at nearly pounds 50bn.

No wonder bank managers and financial advisers spend so much time courting their older clients, putting them on priority mailing lists and ringing up at every excuse. There are juicy fees to be earned for managing money.

The elderly may not be individually rich - pounds 100,000 to invest is a typical amount - but there are an awful lot of them out there with money to play with, even if they do tend to prefer safe havens rather than Paraguayan investment trusts.

According to the survey, by Datamonitor, there are 500,000 elderly people classified as having high net worth, which is banker's jargon for having at least pounds 50,000 to invest, excluding property and pensions.

There are changes afoot, though not always those popularly expected. For example, property inheritance, once seen as the motor driving a new generation of wealth creation, accounts for less than a quarter as much investable wealth as the elderly. Inherited property is becoming relatively less important in the pool, because it is growing considerably more slowly than other forms of wealth.

The two fastest growing areas of wealth are entrepreneurs, accounting for 9 per cent of the total, and - more surprisingly - expatriates, with 11 per cent. The expatriates are mainly British citizens working in overseas subsidiaries of British companies. Another chunk of about the same size is owned by more than 100,000 high- earning individuals in the UK.

These categories are much more likely than the prosperous elderly to invest in high-risk, high-reward areas such as equities, and are sought after by brokers as much as bankers.

The other key target for the hungry investment manager is old-fashioned inherited wealth, which is seen as a distinct group from those who inherit their parents' houses.

For one thing, the average pot of inherited wealth is a dozen times bigger, at more than pounds 900,000. But it is a tough market, since since there are only 8,500 potential clients.

The richer they get, the more likely clients are to gravitate towards specialists such as investment banks. But at the bottom end of the market the 'club class' - those with between pounds 50,000 and pounds 100,000 to invest - still accounts for more than pounds 50bn.

Investment managers have got their hands on about pounds 66bn, or roughly half the liquid assets of the 1.2 milion people with more than pounds 50,000 to spend, including pounds 14bn spread between NatWest, Lloyds, Midland and Barclays, Datamonitor says.

No wonder the banks are moving so determinedly up-market. It is the only way they will beat off competition from building societies. There's another pounds 70bn of wealth waiting to be managed.