The number of billionaires is growing rapidly, and according to new research, most billionaires have three things in common.
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The latest Billionaire Insights 2019: “The billionaire effect” report from UBS found the number of billionaires around the world has grown to 2,101 in the last five years – or 589 people.
The number of billionaires in the world has grown by 38.9 per cent in the last five years, with their combined wealth growing to US$8.5 trillion.
What does it take to become a billionaire?
Based on its survey of 100 UBS advisors and 30 billionaires, UBS’ team of researchers found most billionaires had three traits in common.
“In our view, billionaires have three distinct personality traits that benefit businesses – smart risk taking, business focus, and determination,” the report’s authors said.
“Additionally, like family businesses more generally, billionaires’ enterprises tend to have a long-term strategy.”
Billionaire entrepreneurs – perhaps unsurprisingly – have a “very optimistic attitude” when it comes to risks, the report said. But this group is also focused on finding ways to reduce them.
“They have an obsessive business focus, constantly scanning the world for new opportunities. And they are highly resilient, undeterred by failures and roadblocks.”
But billionaire wealth is falling
But over 2018 billionaire wealth also fell by 4.3 per cent for the first time in the five years analysed, due to a mix of trade fears, concerns about economic growth, a strong US dollar and financial market volatility.
The report also found that the number of female billionaires is growing at a faster rate than men, surging by 46 per cent in the five years from 160 to 233.
Over that same period, the number of male billionaires grew by 39 per cent, or by 356 people.
Where are the billionaires coming from?
While billionaire wealth fell in 2018, billionaires from the tech industry were the only ones to see their wealth increase, with their collective wealth jumping 3.4 per cent to US$1.3 trillion.
“Their net wealth has almost doubled over the last five years, growing 91.4 per cent. Software, internet, and electronic equipment entrepreneurs have built powerful businesses over the past 30 years,” the authors said.
In fact, by the end of 2018, if tech billionaires’ combined wealth was a country, it would be second to only the US.
“However, pioneers driving the future of subsectors such as e-commerce, fintech, ride-hailing, and data systems are emerging fast,” they added.
This is against a backdrop of industrial-minted billionaires seeing their wealth plummet 15.1 per cent as commodity prices also fell.
And China’s entrepreneurs have also grown to become the world’s second largest billionaire group. But in 2018, the number and wealth of Chinese billionaires and their wealth also fell.
In fact, the entire Asia-Pacific region saw the worst fall in billionaire wealth in 2018.
This was due to slowing Chinese growth and rising US interest rates, with 169 people falling off the billionaire list entirely.
“The fortunes of China’s new business leaders are closely tied to those of its economy, which thrived over the past five years to the end of 2018 as the world’s center of economic activity shifted east,” the authors said.
“It was a time when the country’s steady urbanisation continued, real estate prices boomed, the middle classes prospered, and consumer spending – much of it online – grew significantly (although consumer confidence fell after US/China trade friction ratcheted up).
“It was also the period when China‘s homegrown technology industries became globally important. 2018 was the year when China paused for reflection.”
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