More women billionaires than men; only 44% from 1995 still rich today
The number of female billionaires is growing faster than the number of their male counterparts, according to a UBS/PwC report that showed that women have been controlling greater average wealth than men and becoming more influential in family businesses, philanthropic enterprises and governance.
The report also highlights the fleeting nature of great wealth, finding that only 126 billionaires or 44% of the class of 1995 are billionaires today and underscores the strategies these prevailing billionaires have employed to build and preserve lasting legacies.
The survey of over 1,300 billionaires at www.ubs.com/billionaires analyses data from the last 19 years across the 14 largest billionaire markets, accounting for 75% of global billionaire wealth.
Dubbed, the ‘Athena’ factor, the report found that the number of female billionaires is growing faster than male billionaires – multiplying by 6.6x over the last two decades compared to 5.2x for men, with Asian female entrepreneurs standing out as the main driver of this development. Asia has seen the strongest growth of female billionaires in the past ten years, their numbers growing by a factor of 8.8 from only 3 to 25 today. This compares to a growth factor of 2.7 (from 21 to 57) in Europe and 1.7 or 37 to 63 in the US.
Female billionaires in Asia make up almost a fifth of the worldwide female billionaire population and generally are younger than their global counterparts. By contrast, in Europe and America, females are mostly multi-generational billionaires (93% Europe, 81% US); however, they are also playing much stronger roles than previous generations within their families.
The report shows that ‘great wealth’ is very volatile, with more than half of the billionaires of 1995 dropping out of the list over the last 20 years. But those who prevailed greatly increased their wealth. Consumer and Retail, Technology, and Financial Services are the dominant industries, making up for two-thirds of the total wealth of the lasting billionaires today. The Technology sector in particular is home to the most enduring billionaires while Industrials, Real Estate and Health Industries are sectors where billionaire wealth is more fleeting.
In 1995, the report counted 289 billionaires. From this group of billionaires, only 126 remain today, while the others have dropped off the billionaire list due to death, family dilution or business failures. Over the same period, 1,221 new billionaires were created bringing the total number to 1347 billionaires in 2014.
The 126 prevailing billionaires have created US$1 trln of wealth, approximately 21% of that produced by the entire global billionaire population over the period. By 2014, the average wealth of the remaining billionaires had grown their average wealth to $11 bln from $2.9 bln in 1995, multiplying their assets by a factor of 3.8 and outperforming global GDP growth of just 2.5.
The UBS/PwC research and analysis consistently identified three personality traits as essential to entrepreneurial success for both genders – smart risk taking, ‘obsessive’ business focus and dogged determination.
The report found that the majority of multi-generational billionaires created lasting legacies by keeping the initial business entirely or parts of it. The industry sector often dictates the degree to which one keeps the original business. For instance, the best wealth preservation strategy for billionaires that made their fortune in the Consumer and Retail sector is to maintain control of the original business as a value driver. Finance billionaires, on the other hand, are best served by a combination of retaining the original business and adopting a hybrid strategy.
Two-thirds of billionaires are over 60 years of age and face critical wealth transfer decisions. Over three quarters of current billionaires have two or more children. To avoid wealth dilution as the next generation and subsequent generations grow larger, a clear wealth preservation strategy is required to ensure the creation of long term lasting legacies.
Protecting billionaires’ legacies also requires coping with outside forces. Anti-wealth sentiment in politics, growing taxes and increasingly stringent global regulations pose the biggest threats to billionaires’ wealth, topping their list of concerns over potential economic crises, and demonstrating the importance of robust tax and legal capabilities to manage these challenges.
As part of this, the report shows that clear governance structures are necessary to preserve and grow wealth through future generations. To ensure long-term success, managerial competence must override family ties; however, maintaining a strong identity has proven material to longlasting billionaire family dynasties. This, together with establishing strong governance and a well-resourced family office, is a key factor in building lasting legacies.