People often cite South East Asia’s burgeoning pool of ultra high net worth Individuals (UHNWIs) as the cash cow of the future, the teat on which almost all factions of the superyacht industry wish to suckle, given half a chance. With efforts up to this point having fallen chiefly on deaf ears, might a change of tact be in order? If an ageing population of self-made billionaires have neither the time nor inclination to take up a new hobby, perhaps the next generation of not-so-self-made UNHNWIs will.
‘It is not in their culture to laze around in the sun all day,’ people say. ‘They don’t take long enough holidays,’ they add. 'Yachts in South East Asia are only used for business, as luxury office extensions,' they often conclude, with an air of certainty that amounts to, ‘well that’s that then, nothing more to do’. But to whom are they referring, and does it not seem odd that we attribute certainty to something we clearly don’t understand?
One thing I can say with certainty is that the culture of my predecessors does not align all that neatly with my own. I would argue culture shifts of this kind are pandemic and not restricted by location.
It has been the trend in recent years for Chinese, and by extension South East Asian, UHNWIs to send their children abroad to study, be it secondary school or university. In 2012 a Chinese Luxury Consumer White Paper reported that nine of every 10 Chinese citizens with assets in excess of $16 million planned to send their children abroad to study, with the vast majority planning a hiatus to the US.
Through secondary school and university many of the pastimes and traits that define you as a person will be developed, for better or worse. When you consider this in tandem with hitherto unexplored levels of global connectivity, culture shifts and consumerism will know very few boundaries.
With the children of the ruling elite from both East and West now growing up together, is it not safe to assume that if yachting is alive and well in the US, then, through a process of social Darwinism, it shall make the great leap across the Pacific and stimulate the cash cow?
The simple answer is, we have absolutely no idea. However, rather than repeatedly banging on a drum that produces very little sound, might it not be worth trying to educate and enthral a group that may yet bare fruit, and one that is on our very doorstep? Far be it from me to produce the plan or the means to garner the interest from these homogenised youths, but it is certainly something worth considering.
In China there is name for these second-generation super-rich, the fuerdai. It is not a title with positive connotations, the fuerdai are known for their underserved wealth, irresponsible spending and penchant for illegal activity. Sound familiar?