Billionaires move the world forward.
A letter from ... Caroline Kuhnert is responsible for high net worth individuals at UBS. Sie explains why wealth can have a positive effect far beyond the economy.
We've just published our fifth Billionaires Report. Our aim is to contribute to a better understanding of this exclusive group of people. How has their wealth changed? Aber above all: What is the influence of the high-net-worth individuals on our society? And are there regional differences?
A few numbers to start with: In 2017, the number of billionaires worldwide rose by 199 to 2158. Their total assets increased by 19 percent to 8900 billion US dollars. The billionaires benefited above all from the stock market boom. Many of the entrepreneurs surveyed own a listed company and simply ride along when prices rise.
Our current study is entitled "New Visionaries and the Chinese Century". After all, billionaires have long been the vanguard of innovation. They take high risks in implementing their entrepreneurial ideas and thus generate work and prosperity in their societies. Did you know that in the past 40 years, 32 of the 40 most groundbreaking innovations have been driven by people who are now billionaires? In 2017 alone, 199 entrepreneurs became self-made billionaires. Darunter are innovators in the fields of blockchain, genomics and green energy.
The entrepreneurial spirit is currently particularly evident in China. The many new billionaires there are young, consumer-oriented and tireless - life is work and work is life. They see opportunities in the new technologies above all and are courageously expanding into new fields of business. In the last ten years, Chinese billionaires have founded some of the most successful companies in the world. But this is just the beginning. China's rapid urbanization and productivity gains offer countless opportunities. We recently had four self-made billionaires from China give a lecture in our offices. They are not afraid of failure: they were all under 35 years old and none of them was successful with their first business idea. While insolvency is a flaw in Europe, it is only the end of an idea in China. That's all. The young people use this experience for their next project and spend their money generously on luxury goods and intensive consumption.
It's different in Europe. Consumption is less relevant, luxury goods are only a topic on a small scale. In addition, Europe's billionaires are mainly active in traditional businesses, often in the third or fourth generation. Maintaining value as well as ecological and social responsibility are the top issues. The next generation in particular wants to act responsibly and comprehensively. She's not just betting on charity anymore. For them, sustainability means sourcing energy for their companies from ecologically clean sources, minimizing the use of plastics, saving water and paying their employees fairly. What I particularly notice about the successors is the educational effect: they have been to international schools and universities, are open to sharing information and cooperation. This is very different from the previous generation, which was less interested in the exchange.
By the way, it is not that Europe's entrepreneurs are not innovative. Nevertheless, I would like to shout to some of you here: "Take a little more risk, open up to new technologies, use the market to raise capital and expand and digitize". And I would like to say to the Chinese entrepreneurs: "Long-term standing and reputation are important. Take on even more responsibility for social development in your region, get involved in socially and environmentally driven projects."
I don't know whether the world will actually be better due to the strong value orientation of the next generation. But their influence is increasing: there are 701 billionaires older than 70 years. Their assets will be transferred to heirs in the next 20 years. They can move a lot. The great need of the young doers for holistic thinking and acting is a wonderful development that spurs me on. ®