In the epic battle between Singapore and Hong Kong to attract money flowing into Asia, Hong Kong is coming back.
One telling sign: Hong Kong now has more millionaire money than Singapore. According to a global wealth survey by RBC Wealth Management and Capgemini released today, the total wealth of individuals with more than $1 million in investable money in Hong Kong was $560 billion (paywall) last year, up 36% from the year before, which trumped Singapore’s $489 billion. Both stock markets were up in 2012—Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 20% and Singapore’s Straits Times Index jumped almost 18%. But Hong Kong’s wealthy tend to be bigger risk takers and stock buyers than Singaporeans, according to (paywall) Barend Janssens of RBC.
In last year’s report, Singapore had more millionaire wealth than Hong Kong by about $30 billion. An index of global financial centers by Z/Yen Group released in March, based on surveys of finance professionals, put Hong Kong and Singapore in third and fourth place, respectively.
For most corporate executives looking for a reliable base camp near China, the two city-states are in some ways interchangeable. Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Standard Chartered operate branches from both cities. The IMD world competitiveness list—which measures things like infrastructure and efficiency—ranked Hong Kong third and Singapore fifth. Even pollution, traditionally a big drawback to living in Hong Kong, has recently hit Singapore, too.
But when it comes to political freedom and openness, Hong Kong has its drawbacks. Lately, the self-governed Chinese territory known for its free press and partial democracy has been getting squeezed by Beijing. Singapore, meanwhile, has been busy wooing Westerners. Aside from letting up on censorship, the country has erected two high-profile casinos, and softened its ban on homosexuality.