Rich, and getting richer: study reveals trends in world’s billionaire population

It won’t come as a huge surprise to most people to hear this, but 2015 was a reasonably good year for the world’s billionaires, whatever it may have been for the rest of the population, a new study reveals.

According to Wealth-X’s 2015-2016 Billionaire Census, there are now some 2,473 billionaires on the planet, whose combined wealth totals US$7.7trn – representing a 6.4%increase in the ranks of such money-worries-free individuals, and a 5.4% increase in their collective wealth, compared with 2014.

To put this in context, the gross domestic product of the US is around $17.9trn, or a little more than double what these 2,473 individuals control.

In a statement, Wealth-X said that its just-released third edition of its annual billionaires study showed that even though there is “only one billionaire for every 2.95 million people on the planet”, their wealth has a tremendous impact on the global economy.

“In 2015, billionaires controlled 3.9% of the world’s total household wealth. While this figure is slightly down from 2014, when compared to equity market capitalisations, it would trail only the New York Stock Exchange (US$17trn), and only the United States (US$17.9trn) and China (US$11trn) when compared to gross domestic product.”

Other key findings from the 2015-2016 Wealth-X Billionaire Census include:

· In 2015, billionaire wealth accounted for a larger share of the total wealth held by the world’s ultra wealthy

· While billionaire representation within the UHNW population increased only 1% in 2015, their wealth representation in this demographic increased by nearly 5%

· There has been a “continued rise in billionaire liquidity”, which currently stands at 22.2% of total net worth. This has been a noticeable trend since 2012

· Male billionaires outnumber their female counterparts; and of the 148 “newbie” billionaires in 2015, 140 were men

· Women billionaires are becoming more entrepreneurial – just 56% inherited their wealth in 2015, “nearly a 10% drop from 2014”

· Inheriting wealth is still a good way to find oneself on the road to Billionaireland, it seems, with those who partially-inherited their wealth “[continuing] to be the fastest-growing segment of this population, responsible for nearly two thirds of total billionaire additions”, which represented “a 29.9% increase from 2014”

· “Achieving billionaire status often requires more than just inheritance; 87% of billionaires made the majority of their fortunes themselves, up from 81% in 2014”

· While finance, banking and investment remains the sectors in which the largest number of billionaires are to be found, “a subtle shift continues to grow – the number of billionaires in these fields decreased by 5.5%, while their wealth decreased by 6.6%”, the Wealth-X data shows; and “industrial conglomerates continued to edge to the top spot, with the insurance, retail, diversified financial services, business services and IT services sectors all seeing significant billionaire growth”

· Asia led all other regions last year in terms of both growth of billionaire numbers and in terms of their average wealth, at 15.2% and 19.6% respectively

· Europe’s billionaire population increased by 4.0%, but the wealth of its billionaires tumbled just under 1%, which represented “a decrease of 11% of net billionaire wealth”. The number of North American billionaires grew by 3.1%, and their wealth grew by 8%

To read and download more about Wealth-X’s billionaire research, click here.

Founded in 2010, Wealth-X is a research consultancy, with more than 200 staff across North America, Europe and Asia.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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