Move Over America: China's Billionaires Are Taking Over

A total of 199 billionaires were created over the year globally, with almost a third gaining their wealth through some form of innovation, while the rest did so by scaling up businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, UBS and consultants PwC said.

The world's billionaires experienced the biggest wealth increase ever in 2017, with aggregate wealth among these 2,158 (and counting) individuals growing by $1.4 trillion to $8.9 trillion, a 19% leap, according to the 5th annual Billionaires Insight Report from UBS and PwC.

If the ongoing trade tensions were to develop into an "all-out" trade war, "an abrupt change in economic conditions would have knock-on effects on billionaires' interests and investments", said Philip Wyatt, Asia-Pacific economist at UBS Global Wealth Management.

'But this is just the beginning. For the first time, billionaire growth in Asia Pacific outpaced that of the U.S. previous year. Last year, 89 Chinese businessmen made their first billion dollars, three times more than in the USA and EMEA.

This incident, along with the recent show trials and tribulations of Chinese executives, shows that while the country has ramped up its production of new billionaires, the megarich and the bankers who chase them face a far more complex and uncertain future than their Western counterparts. "China´s vast population, technology innovation and productivity growth combined with government support, are providing unprecedented opportunities for individuals not only to build businesses but also to change people´s lives for the better". Since other industries like retail and financial services rely heavily on technology, technology has become the horizontal and most other industries are verticals.

In the past, "the majority of breakthrough innovations have been driven by companies based in the Americas", John Mathews, UBS' head of ultrahigh net worth for the Americas, said in a statement.

The latest UBS/PWC billionaires report charts exactly how and where the moneyed elite is prospering.

Equities in the United States and Asian countries excluding Japan may fall by more than 20 percent from their levels in mid-summer of 2018, the report warned.

"It's hard to become a billionaire through sheer organic growth".

In the Americas region, the wealth of billionaires increased at a slower rate of 12%, to $3.6 trillion, with the United States creating 53 new billionaires in 2017 compared to 87 five years ago.

These mega-rich increased their wealth by a $1.4 trillion which is more than the entire GDP of Spain or Australia.

The report, which UBS produces annually with the audit and consulting firm PwC, is meant to be a marketing tool for the firm's wealth management business. While women still represent a small portion of the total number of billionaires overall - 11 percent - their rise could indicate a steady shift in wealth creation.

  • Anthony Vega