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29 Jun, 2009 06:21

Russia’s rich turn to cash during difficult times

Russia's capital has hosted yet another celebration of the country's rich - the Millionaire Fair. That's just days after a report from Merrill Lynch, said the net worth of the world's top earners has fallen by a fifth.

The number of millionaires in Russia has been slashed by a third due to the economic slowdown. Volatile stock markets are driving high net worth individuals into less profitable but also less risky investments according to Jean-Marie Deleurmoz from Merrill Lynch International.

“There has been a flight to safety on behalf of wealthy investors, and they have gone more actively into low risk type investments like cash deposits, gold and U.S. Treasury bonds.”

They're taking a critical eye to alternative investments – shunning coins, antiques and memorabilia – and turning to art and jewelry instead. These investments of passion are thought to hold their value better in the long term.

But they're even more keen to invest in themselves. The have-it-alls are cutting their spending on collectibles, in favour of their own healthcare and medicine.

Research earlier this year shows that in contrast to other BRIC countries affluent Russian's shun risky investment instruments. Veronika Zhukova, from the Wealth Management Department of CitiBank says cash attracts most.

“Our people are very conservative, but I think they have a reason for that. If we look at the 10 years history of Russia we had a lot of turbulent times, so people who managed to grow their wealth, they will to keep it and preserve it. Most of the people prefer to keep many in cash, more than half of them actually.”

The image of Russia's rich as big-spenders is true to life. But, Jean-Marie Deleurmoz says they also show good sense when it comes to asset management.

“In general the Russians are very demanding, are very accurate, they are very good mathematicians. So for them its not very difficult to understand financial markets.”

Despite its gloomy findings this year, Merrill Lynch believes the appetitive for risk-taking is slowly returning. But far from the heady pace of the past decade, over the next four years the wealth of the rich will grow by only 8% annually.