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Cities that Matter Most to the Wealthy


Power may shift and competition intensify, but a global city survey shows that New York and London are still on fighting form; however, a lot is expected to change in a decade.

Last year was not an easy year for New York with weather disasters, Wall Street’s fluctuations and a presidential election to battle through. However, despite those troubles New York City was named the most important city in the world for the wealthiest people, according to a new report.

The Wealth Report’s Global Cities Survey by global real estate consultant Knight Frank assesses key cities around the world to determine the places that matter to the wealthy and influential, focusing on four categories: economic activity; political power; quality of life; and knowledge and influence.

The top 10 spots are mostly evenly split, with three cities from Europe, three from North America and three from Asia, plus a bonus Australasian city. According to the report, there’s a close relationship between economic activity and overall ranking. The top four cities all ranked highly in the economic index.

“Perhaps the most contentious indicator in the survey is quality of life. No two people will share the same idea of that makes the perfect lifestyle,” according to the report. “Measuring cool and other intangible factors is pretty much impossible, so we have based our findings on elements that can be measured, such as crime levels and environmental quality.”

The following list is the overall rank of cities that matter most to high net worth individuals (HNWI).

Top 10 cities

10. Zurich

Region: Europe

Lake Zurich. Copyright MadGeographer | Wikipedia.

Economic activity rank: 11

Political power rank: 24

Quality of life rank: 1

Knowledge and influence rank: 22

Quality of life covers a large range of issues, such as measure of personal and political freedom, censorship, crime, health facilities, culture and climate. The ranking for quality of life is topped by northern Europe, Australia and Canada.

9. Toronto

Region: North America

Downtown business district at night.

Economic activity rank: 12

Political power rank: 15

Quality of life rank: 4

Knowledge and influence rank: 15

Although Toronto is the only Canadian city to make the top 10 overall, Vancouver and Montreal also made the overall top 40 list. Plus, Vancouver ranked in the top 10 for quality of life, coming in at seven.

8. Washington, D.C.

Region: North America

White House. Copyright Matt H. Wade | Wikipedia.

Economic activity rank: 14

Political power rank: 1

Quality of life rank: 19

Knowledge and influence rank: 23

The nation’s capital easily took the top spot for political rank, which is calculated by considering the number of headquarters for national political organizations, international non-governmental organizations, embassies and think tanks.

7. Sydney

Region: Australasia

Martin Place in Sydney’s central business district. Copyright Adam.J.W.C | Wikipedia.

Economic activity rank: 17

Political power rank: 12

Quality of life rank: 3

Knowledge and influence rank: 7

In the long-term Australian cities will benefit greatly from increasing levels of investment from Asian high net worth individuals.

“Overseas investors continue to trawl the Sydney market, predominately for large, prime CBD [central business district or downtown] assets, which have been favored by offshore groups,” Matt Whitby, Head of Research for Knight Frank Australia, said in the report.

6. Singapore

Region: Asia

Singapore skyline. Copyright chensiyuan | Wikipedia.

Economic activity rank: 8

Political power rank: 23

Quality of life rank: 22

Knowledge and influence rank: 3

In a separate survey of personal preferences (with results that vary from this overall ranking), Asian HNWI named Singapore the most important city in the world, ahead of both London and New York. All HNWIs ranked Singapore third, but expect it will jump to second by 2023, overtaking New York.

5. Hong Kong

Region: Asia

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.

Economic activity rank: 7

Political power rank: 10

Quality of life rank: 26

Knowledge and influence rank: 6

In Knight Frank’s Prime International Residential Index Hong Kong’s real estate had the second most expensive price per square foot, coming in second to Monaco. The index reported that Hong Kong’s residence cost more than $4,570 per square foot.

4. Tokyo

Region: Asia

Sinjuku skyscrapers. Copyright Morio | Wikipedia.

Economic activity rank: 3

Political power rank: 6

Quality of life rank: 23

Knowledge and influence rank: 13

As Asia’s second largest economy, Knight Frank reported that it expects Tokyo to continue to draw investment. It has the third largest population of HNWIs with 5,440.

3. Paris

Region: Europe

Paris’ business district, La Défense. Copyright ros k @getfunky_paris | Flickr

Economic activity rank: 4

Political power rank: 8

Quality of life rank: 11

Knowledge and influence rank: 4

Paris is particularly popular with overseas private investors from the Middle East, according to Knight Frank. However, in the popular survey, Paris only comes in at ninth and is expected to drop to tenth by 2023.

2. London

Region: Europe

Paternoster Square, the new home of the London Stock Exchange

Economic activity rank: 2

Political power rank: 5

Quality of life rank: 8

Knowledge and influence rank: 1

The overall ranking, which places London second, is a detailed data analysis, but when Knight Frank surveyed the attitudes of high net worth individuals, London came in first. This poll was based solely on global sentiment and personal preference.

1. New York

The financial district as viewed from Brooklyn. Copyright Hu Totya | Wikipedia.

Economic activity rank: 1

Political power rank: 7

Quality of life rank: 6

Knowledge and influence rank: 2

New York City also has the largest population of high net worth individuals (7,580). According to Knight Frank, Russians have become a growing driving force in New York residential and commercial property. However, in 2012, the average prime residential price in New York actually dropped by 1.4%.

“New York’s strength is reflected in its consistent showing across all four of our categories,” according to the report.

See the full report here.

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