Global billionaire wealth rose by 17% in 2016 to $6trn (£4.5trn, €5.1trn), up from $5.1trn.
In total, 162 people joined the billionaire ranks in Asia during 2016, meaning one new billionaire was created every other day. The region is now home to 637 billionaires and, for the first time in recorded history, outnumbers the US with 537 billionaires.
Of the 101 new billionaires who emerged in China during the year, only one gained their fortune from family legacy. The average age of Chinese billionaires is also quite low at just 55, compared with 66 in Hong Kong.
Chinese wealth curse
Aiming to break a Chinese curse — “family fortunes do not last more than three generations” – the country’s wealthy families have become more willing to seek professional advice in asset allocation and risk management, said Amy Lo, head of wealth management at UBS.
Their investment appetite is also shifting from high investment returns to developing a portfolio with a broader geographic and asset class mix, she added.
In addition, “a number of rich second generation Chinese have been educated abroad so they are generally more open to professional management of the family fortune”, she said.
The bank has also received inquiries from Chinese ultra-high net worths about investments related to philanthropic causes and social impact. “Chinese billionaires have an increasing interest in contributing and investing in the community where they come from. They are also looking at replicating successful projects from overseas in China,” Lo added.
However, Chinese billionaires tend to take their companies public. Their personal assets are closely tied to their companies’ assets and the share price performance therefore adds volatility to the family wealth.
Last year, the aggregated wealth of 318 Chinese billionaires accounted for $804bn, up 36% from 2015, the report said. In terms of numbers, the net increase of billionaires was 67 last year.
The average wealth of China’s billionaires rose to $2.5bn. This compares with $4bn in Hong Kong and $2.8bn in Singapore.
The growth in the number of China’s billionaires has driven up the number of Asia’s billionaires, which outpaced the US for the first time in 2016, thanks to the rise in Asia’s real-estate prices, the report said.
Number of billionaires
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*UBS confirmed to International Adviser that its report covers the 14 most significant markets, representing 80% of global billionaire wealth, which did not include the Middle East.