According to Credit Suisse’s latest Global Wealth Report, unveiled last August, Belgians are the richest people in the world…This analysis is based on the median wealth of Belgian households, which according to their sources reached USD 249,940 in 2022.
This explains why many foreign banks are keen to have a geographical footprint in Belgium, or to strengthen their local presence.
Even more strikingly, the financial assets of Belgian households reached EUR 1,500.8 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2023, representing growth of EUR 23.5 billion compared with the end of 2022.
This growth is due to the good performance of the financial markets during the 1st quarter. 2023 started on a positive note. Economic data better-than-expected, the reopening of the Chinese economy after a strict pandemic policy, and the expectation that the hawkish interest-rate hike strategy of the US Federal Reserve (Fed) would soon come to an end, gave the stock markets a considerable boost.
During the first quarter, Belgians strengthened their positions in term deposits (EUR +5 bn) and debt securities (EUR +3.9 bn). Current accounts (EUR -8 bn), regulated savings (EUR -200 m) and insurance products (EUR -100 m) were down.
This was to be expected, given the level of short-term interest rates and the defensive nature of Belgian investors.
Is this a reversal of the trends seen in recent years?
Yes, very clearly. During the period of low or negative interest rates, the well-known adage TINA (There Is No Alternative) boosted equity markets investments. However, for over a year now, the bond markets have been recovering. The spectacular rise in short-term interest rates has taken yields to new heights.
This new paradigm has had a direct effect on capital flows and investment offering.
Are Belgians still keen to invest in mutual funds?
With over EUR 195.4 billion assets under management held by UCITs at the end of Q2 2023, the figures confirm Belgians attraction for mutual funds.
However, a number of trends emerge between the end of 2022 and the end of June 2023:
- The first concerns inflows and outflows. Assets under management grew up by 5.9%. A closer look at the figures reveals that this increase is linked to market drift. Over the period, redemptions exceeded subscriptions taking net flows to EUR -937 million.
- The second is the greening of the product range. Today, 72.1% of assets held in UCITs are classified Article 8 (funds promoting ESG aspects). 1.2% of mutual funds’ assets are classified as Article 9 (funds with a sustainable objective) and 26.8% of mutual funds’ assets do not promote sustainable criteria as part of their investment strategy.
- Pension funds continue to gain ground with retail investors. Net flows over the period show growth of 549 million euros.
- Last but not least, high interest rates have also boosted sales of structured notes.
 Sources: NBB
 Sources : FSMA
 Source: FSMA: A structured debt security is a complex financial product with a predefined term that offers a return linked, according to a more or less complex formula, to the performance of an underlying asset, such as a stock market index or an interest rate. The majority of structured debt securities marketed in Belgium offer the right to repayment of principal (excluding entry fees) at maturity.
An article by Nicolas FORTOMARIS, Senior Manager Investments at DynaFin Consulting.