Slowdown not stopping Australia's millionaire factory

Sydney, Australia
David Woolley | Stockbyte | Getty Images
Sydney, Australia

Australia's once-resilient economy may have finally succumbed to headwinds, but that won't impact the pace at which the country is minting millionaires, a new survey shows.

The number of millionaires in Australia is expected to grow by 33 percent in the next four years, according to research firm WealthInsight, despite a peak in the mining investment that has been driving its economic growth and a slowdown in its largest trading partner China.

"By 2017, there will be an estimated 402,000 millionaires in Australia, a 33 percent increase from 2012. The majority of these new 100,000 millionaires will earn their wealth from financial services," a WealthInsight report said this week.

Oliver Williams, financial services analyst at WealthInsight said financial services is becoming the new "bastion" for Australia's wealthy.

"Although Australia's established multimillionaires, such as Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, still have large stakes in the mining sector, most of the country's emerging millionaires are profiting from financial services," Williams said.

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Currently, more than 18 percent of millionaires and over 15 percent of multimillionaires - defined as those with more than $30 million - in Australia acquired their wealth from financial services, while the next largest sector at 14 percent is basic materials, which includes mining and metals.

Financial services already accounts for 10 percent of Australia's national output, according to Williams, who said the sector is likely to become even more highly competitive as investors pile in.

"Since 2007, the number of millionaires who acquired their wealth from financial services has grown 28 percent, more than any other sector, including Australia's previous bastion of millionaire wealth - mining & basic materials," the report said.

Last year, Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 stock index made gains of nearly 15 percent and is up more than 10 percent so far this year to 5,157. It was one of the best performing stock markets in the Asia-Pacific region in July, rising 5.5 percent, marking its biggest monthly gain since November 2012.

(Read more: Australia's stock market is on 'fire')

The spreading of wealth

Australia's wealth per capita at $344,000 was the second highest in the world in 2012 after Switzerland at $498,000, according to WealthInsight. That compares to a global average of $28,000.

Still, Australia's millionaires collectively account for only 15.5 percent of the country's wealth, which is about half the 29 percent global average.

"This reflects a very equal distribution of wealth in Australia," Williams said. "Although we see billionaires earning stratospheric amounts, the reality is they are a tiny minority in what is a very equal economy."

In terms of cities with the most millionaires, Sydney, Australia's financial center, is at the top, accounting for 27 percent of the country's millionaires, followed by another major city Melbourne at over 16 percent.

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"Sydney's huge growth in millionaires can be explained by the success of its financial industry, which now ranks above Melbourne's. We have found that most new millionaires in Australia earn their wealth from financial services, hence the popularity with Sydney," Williams said.

—By's Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani; Follow her on Twitter @RajeshniNaidu