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Billionaires are aiming to use their wealth to tackle global challenges: UBS report

Khairani Afifi Noordin
Khairani Afifi Noordin12/8/2022 04:14 PM GMT+08  • 4 min read
Billionaires are aiming to use their wealth to tackle global challenges: UBS report
Total billionaire wealth slipped from US$13.1 trillion in 2021 to US$12.7 trillion in 2022. Photo: UBS
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Billionaires are aiming to use their wealth or resources to tackle the world’s environmental and societal problems via initiatives that address climate change to biodiversity, health, education and inequality, according to the UBS Billionaire Ambitions Report 2022.

The report, which surveys UBS’s billionaire clients, found that 95% of the respondents believe they have a responsibility to address these challenges, with more than two thirds seeing it as their duty to “lead the way”.

Among the clients surveyed, 42% picked smart agriculture; economic development and poverty alleviation; as well as clean water and sanitation as areas with greatest opportunities for them and their peers to make a positive impact in the future.

Often working together with like minded business people, philanthropists and governments to develop new models or prototypes, the ways in which billionaires seek to engineer change vary.

Most commonly, almost half of the clients surveyed use their business capital to address challenges ranging from cutting greenhouse gases to treating wastewater and improving access to education — this aligns with their entrepreneurial strengths, the report found. Just over a third of billionaires do so via investing and roughly the same proportion through philanthropy.

The growing emphasis on solving environmental and societal challenges — often through collaboration — is reflected in a rethinking of legacy, the report states. Three quarters of the billionaires surveyed favour passing down their values and principles to the next generation.

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Meanwhile, almost half said that it’s important to help future generations, with a third stating that they wanted to use their resources to have a positive impact on the world.

“[The billionaires] are in an ideal position to use their entrepreneurial capital to deliver fresh approaches and effective ways of doing what’s needed to tackle these issues. They are optimistic about the role that private companies can play alongside governments in creating a positive impact for future generations,” says UBS co-head of Global Wealth Management Asia Pacific and Singapore country head August Hatecke.

The report also found that the total number of billionaires globally has slightly declined in a volatile environment. As at March when the data was compiled, there were 2,668 billionaires versus 2,755 in the previous year. In 2022, 360 saw their wealth dip below US$1 billion, while 273 reached that level.

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Total billionaire wealth slipped from US$13.1 trillion in 2021 to US$12.7 trillion in 2022. However, the total wealth and number of billionaires is likely to have fallen further since March 2022 due to declines in asset prices, the report notes.

The two most populated sectors, finance and investments (392 billionaires), and technology (348 billionaires), experienced some of the highest rates of change. 50 new billionaires were created in finance and investments while 30 dropped out.

Among the new billionaires were fintech disruptors as well as private equity and hedge fund partners. There were 41 new tech billionaires while 57 disappeared — this fluctuation reflects the dynamism of a sector where barriers to entry are low, and innovation is perpetual.

Manufacturers also flourished amid extraordinary demand for durable goods as well as the emergence of new electric vehicle and battery entrepreneurs. There were 338 manufacturing billionaires in 2022 worth a total US$1.1 trillion, with 44 new joiners and 37 who dropped from the list.

Although the billionaire population in Asia Pacific was still the largest, the number of billionaires slipped to 1084, down 59 from the previous year. In terms of total wealth, Asia Pacific was the second largest region.

Total wealth in the region was down nearly 10% to US$4.2 trillion. India’s billionaire population flourished as it overtook the UK to become the fifth largest economy in 2022. As at March, the country had 166 billionaires, up from 140 the previous year.

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