Asia is fast becoming the wealth-creation capital of the world, with one new dollar billionaire being created every week in China alone, says a new report.
The number of Asian billionaires looks set to surpass the number in the US within five to 10 years, but overall growth may slow in the face of global deflation.
A new research paper from UBS and PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that Asia currently accounts for 36% of self-made billionaire wealth, outstripping Europe for the first time.
The paper says: “In the last decade, the US and Asia have become the main centres of great wealth creation, with Europe faring less well. Asia’s tycoons have been key participants in the region’s accelerated industrial and consumer revolutions, with the building of mega-cities and the increase in real estate prices.”
The report claims that “billionaires are different. Their fortunes aren’t the result of good luck or social background,” although it says 82% have a college degree. But Asia’s new rich are also different in that 25% of them grew up in poverty, compared with just 8% in the US and 6% in Europe.
Self-made billionaires start to make their breakthrough at a young age, although they do not tend to hit the billion-dollar mark until well after their 40th birthdays. Almost a quarter (23%) launched their first venture before the age of 30, while more than two-thirds (68%) launched their first venture before reaching 40.
The report finds that wealth is now more closely linked with stock market returns. “In the first part of our 1995-2014 study period, billionaire wealth far outperformed the financial markets,” says the report. “But since the dot.com bubble burst in the early 2000s it has become far more correlated with financial markets.”
The report’s introduction, signed by the heads of UBS and PwC’s global wealth management, says: “Notably, we believe this period of extraordinary wealth generation may soon decelerate.
"The response to rising inequality, increasing taxes and asset price deflation may all play a part in slowing the current cycle. Tax, social equality initiatives, asset price deflation and geopolitical tensions will likely have significant consequences for great wealth creation."
At the same time, the report suggests that scientific innovation in fields such as biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and cyber security, will create "some new opportunities for aspiring billionaires".
And with Asia becoming the centre of billionaire growth, there will be more female billionaires. From 2003 to 2013 the number of female billionaires jumped from 44 to 116. Asia’s new billionaires will also be younger, driven both by imminent wealth transfer and also strong self-made billionaire growth.
“Looking forward, we expect the region to be the centre of new billionaire wealth creation," says Antoinette Hoon, private banking advisory services partner at PwC Hong Kong. "If anybody has any doubt, look no further than the fact that one new billionaire was created almost every week in China in the first quarter.”