The financial services sector is the best way to get super rich in the U.S., whereas the consumer sector is the leading route in Europe and Asia, according to a new report from UBS AG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that examines the world’s billionaires.
The 2015 Billionaires Report, which was based on a survey of 1,300 billionaires, found that 917 self-made billionaires have generated more than US$3.6 trillion of wealth globally in recent years. In the U.S., the financial services sector was the top source of wealth self-made billionaires (30%) and average wealth per billionaire in the sector averages US$4.5 billion.
By contrast, almost half (49.5%) of European billionaires and 20% of Asian self-made billionaires were created by the consumer sector over the past two decades. With an average wealth of US$5.7 billion, the Europeans are wealthier than the Asian counterparts (US$3.2 billion), the report notes.
However, the 2015 Billionaires Report reveals that the self-made billionaire population in Asia is unique “because wealth creation in the region is more recent than in other parts of the world.”
Asian billionaires are generally younger, the UBS/PwC report reveals, at an average age of 57, which is 10 years younger than the average billionaires in the U.S. and Europe. Furthermore, a significant proportion of Asian billionaires (25%) grew up in poverty compared with 8% in the U.S. and 6% in Europe.
Thus, UBS and PwC say they anticipate Asia to be the centre of new billionaire wealth creation in the years ahead.
“We currently live in an age of opportunity and accelerated wealth creation, similar to the Gilded Age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when entrepreneurship in the U.S. and Europe drove the first wave of innovation in modern history,” says Josef Stadler, head of global ultra high-net worth with UBS. “But wealth generation is cyclical, and over the past few decades we have benefited from being on a strong arc of the cycle.”
The UBS/PwC report predicts that this period of vast wealth creation is likely to level off: “Tax, social equality initiatives, asset price deflation and geopolitical tensions — there are approximately 40 civil wars and armed conflicts raging — will likely have significant consequences for great wealth creation.”
Nevertheless, the report adds that the good time may last longer in Asia than in other regions.
Meanwhile, the 2015 Billionaires Report also found that 60% of U.S. and European self-made billionaires hang onto the businesses that built their wealth, 30% sell pieces of the business and 10% cash out entirely.
However, in Europe and Asia, billionaires are most likely to create a family dynasty, with 57% of European and 56% of Asian billionaire families taking over the family business when the founder retires. In the U.S., this is only the case with 36%.
With more than two-thirds of global billionaires older than 60 years of age, the UBS/PwC report says that wealth preservation, wealth transfer and legacy are top issues for these families.
“Billionaire wealth creation over the past two decades has been largely correlated to the financial markets, which have the ability to slow — or worse, turn — in an instant,” says Michael Spellacy, global wealth leader at PwC U.S. “Therefore, strategic planning is paramount to wealth preservation, whether it be via family offices, personal investing or any other means.”