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UBS sees shift in new billionaires away from entrepreneurs to inherited wealth

ZURICH (Reuters) – Billionaires increased in numbers and overall wealth last year, Swiss bank UBS said on Thursday, with the fortunes inherited by the newly-minted super-rich exceeding cash generated by self-made billionaires for the first time in years.

The number of billionaires rose by 7% to 2,544 people globally, UBS said in its 2023 Billionaires Ambitions Report, with their total worth rising by 9% to an estimated $12 trillion.

For the first time since the study started in 2015, billionaires accumulated more wealth via inheritance than through their own business activities.

Among the 137 new billionaires, a total of $150.8 billion was inherited by 53 heirs over the last year, exceeding the 84 new self-made billionaires’ total of $140.7 billion, the bank said.

The generational wealth transfer is gaining momentum as more money passes through the generations, said UBS, which oversees $5.5 trillion in invested assets and is one of the world’s biggest wealth managers.

“This is a theme we expect to see more of over the next 20 years, as more than 1,000 billionaires pass an estimated $5.2 trillion to their children,” said Benjamin Cavalli, head of strategic clients at UBS Global Wealth Management.

Cavalli said the generational shift presented a big opportunity for UBS, but was also was risky as years-long relationships ended and the owners of massive wealth changed.

The bank, which has a business relationship with around half of world’s billionaires, works with the second, third and fourth generations of families.

“Over the next 20 – 30 years you can either be on the winning side or receiving side of it,” he said referring to the wealth transfer. “Or you also happen to be in a vacuum and lose substantial assets if you do not know the potential beneficiaries,” he told reporters.

The study highlighted a trend away from self-made billionaires, created by the tech industry boom and symbolised by the rise of Tesla boss Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

But this development has paused as many business founders – who also benefited from expanding financial markets, rising property prices and the growth of emerging markets – age and pass on their wealth to the next generation, UBS said.

A reduced number in company flotations in 2022 and early 2023 has also limited the opportunity for entrepreneurs to realise the value of their businesses, UBS said.

Still, despite the large inherited wealth, this did not necessarily mean a new generation of super-rich 20 somethings.

“Very often they are rather 50+,” Michael Viana, head of strategic client coverage at UBS. “It is actually more the King Charles effect, they actually are quite advanced in age as well when taking over.”

(Reporting by John Revill; editing by David Evans)

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