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82% of millionaires believe this is the most unpredictable time in our history

A shopper walks past a Louis Vuitton store in the Ion Orchard mall on Orchard Road in Singapore.
Sanjit Das | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A shopper walks past a Louis Vuitton store in the Ion Orchard mall on Orchard Road in Singapore.

The vast majority of millionaires across seven international markets think the current period is the "most unpredictable" ever, according to a new study by Swiss bank UBS on Wednesday.

A total of 2,842 high net worth individuals were interviewed in the U.K., Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico with each millionaire having at least $1 million in investable assets (excluding property). Mexican millionaires topped the list with 90 percent agreeing that we're currently living through the most unpredictable period in history. The biggest domestic issue raised in Mexico was that of corruption.

Singapore came narrowly behind, according to the UBS Investor Watch 2017 report, with 84 percent of Singaporean millionaires holding this view and highlighting the risk of greater trade barriers. However, they were more confident than their Hong Kong and Japan counterparts when assessing financial risks and making appropriate investment decisions.

Singapore confidence boosted by property

SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

For Singaporean millionaires in particular, the report showed that confidence was boosted by their ability to find safe places to invest in an uncertain environment.

"Property is usually a key focus point in the region and it seems that Singapore is turning more positive whereas in Hong Kong, the authorities are still trying ensure better affordability," said Hartmut Issel, head of equity and credit APAC and a chief investment officer from UBS Wealth Management.

"(The) property market can often swing the picture."

Eight out of 10 Singaporean millionaires find the local property market still remains attractive, according to the survey, and more than two-thirds said the domestic market offers security for their money. However, 7 out of 10 Singaporean millionaires pointed to cash as a safe option and UBS warned on the dangers of this belief.

"I think there's work to be done for wealth managers in Singapore to at least put the context that while cash is always safe, it is also important to know that you have opportunity costs and inflation so it is not quite as safe as perceived," said Issel.

Singapore millionaires worried about trade

Although domestic politics are seen as a stabilizing force in helping Singaporean wealth holders to feel more secure about their financial future, their main source of domestic uncertainty arises from the risk of greater trade barriers. The overarching theme of rising protectionism is a concern to an improving global economy.

"In terms of policies, their main concern is around trade. This correlates as Singapore is a very wealthy and open economy so if something happens on the trade side, historically it will affect the most open economies," noted Issel.

The survey highlights emerging trends of entrepreneurism and technology in contributing to the confidence of navigating through the noise of uncertainty.

"Singapore millionaires stand out by a few percentage points (in) each category by being more willing to embrace technology and think big data could be helpful to make sense of this uncertainty," added Issel.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Mexican millionaires topped the list with 90 percent agreeing that we're currently living through the most unpredictable period in history.

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