Billionaires’ wealth hits record $10 trillion

Billionaires have continued to thrive despite the current Covid-19 disruption, amassing a new high of $10.2 trillion, surpassing the previous peak of $8.9 trillion which was reached at the end of 2017

According to the seventh survey of the world’s wealthiest by UBS and PwC, there are now 2,189 billionaires, up from 2,158 in 2017.

As the pandemic took hold in the first few months of 2020, overall billionaire wealth fell 6.6% between March 2019 and April 2020, by $564bn, to $8 trillion. The number of individual billionaires fell by 43 to 2,058.

 However, by the end of July, billionaire wealth recovered in line with the V-shaped recovery in public markets. This recovery was led by billionaires in tech, healthcare and industry, with the report singling out these individuals as the ones who are making the most money compared to their peers.

During 2018, 2019 and the first seven months of 2020, tech sector entrepreneurs grew their total wealth by 42.5%, from $1.3 trillion to $1.8 trillion, while healthcare billionaires saw their wealth rise 50.3%, from $438.1bn to $658.6bn.

The report says these levels of growth far surpass the overall rate of billionaire wealth growth over the period, at 19.1%, with billionaires in more traditional sectors like real estate and financial services weighing down the average figure as their wealth declined.

The research classes billionaires it identifies as ‘innovators and disruptors’ as the big winners, a category which includes 94% of tech and 71% of healthcare entrepreneurs.

These individuals grew their wealth by 17% to $5.3 trillion across 2018, 2019 and 2020, compared to traditional billionaires’ wealth which increased by 6% to $3.7 trillion.

The report points out that Innovation in these sectors has been driven by new consumer technology as well as business services such as AI, cloud computing and software-as-a-service from the likes of Oracle and Microsoft, along with new drug discovery and innovations in diagnostics and medical technology, as well as, latterly, Covid-19 treatments and equipment.

The report indicated some billionaires are aware of their good fortune, giving away substantial sums through philanthropy.

Between March and June this year, a total of 209 billionaires publicly committed $7.2bn to help fight Covid-19, and researchers said it could have been more as the public announcements understate the true amount donated, given a tendency toward discretion.

The report also suggested that a number of billionaires are seeking to go beyond philanthropy to do good across corporate and investment activities.

It says this group is strategically prioritising outputs over inputs and looking to balance corporate, environmental and social values with corporate profitability.

As an example, the top ten billionaire-controlled companies ranked by sustainability performance are almost all associated with billionaires who are also Covid-19 donors and venture capital investors in clean tech businesses. Nine of the 10 are Covid-19 donors and seven also invest in clean tech.

Useful links:

Riding the storm, UBS PwC Billionaire’s report

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