It is our observation that people are curious about those who have great wealth, evidenced by persistent media coverage of their business acumen, philanthropy and entrepreneurialism.

But what does it really mean to have a net worth in the thousands of millions? How did these people get to that point, and what’s important to them? In May 2015, UBS and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) produced the 2015 UBS/PwC Billionaire Report to find out.

This report is a comprehensive look at the recent history of the creation of massive wealth and an analysis of information on 1,300 billionaires that includes in-person interviews with 30 individuals.

The results are stunning. We are in a second “Gilded Age” of wealth, where billionaires have grown their assets through entrepreneurial means more than dynastic wealth. And we find that the personality traits of smart risk-taking, obsessive business focus, dogged determination and early career starts are common for this group.


We are in a second ‘Gilded Age’ of wealth.

While their level of wealth may not be common, the billionaires studied had issues and concerns similar to those of all successful people. For example, almost two-thirds of those studied were over the age of 60, had more than one child and were beginning to plan the eventual transfer of their wealth, if they hadn’t already.

The questions they faced of “how” and “when” were similar to those facing the readers of this magazine. Since many of these entrepreneurs still control their own businesses, they had to decide if it made sense to pass their businesses along to family control or bring in professional management. En route, these billionaires may find the questions of legacy versus family control difficult to decide. If they do choose to cash-out of their business, what they pursue next will be influenced by their age and appetite.

A related issue when we think of billionaires is philanthropy, and the UBS report indicated that this was an important focus for this group. Their focus was not just on using wealth to support charity but to have a “real” social impact. There was also interest in personal involvement in philanthropy, rather than in just leaving behind a large legacy.


This seems to be a common trend among most high net worth investors. Certainly we see billionaires portrayed in the media as living fascinating lives. But it’s interesting that a closer look reveals similar concerns among all high net worth families. For a more in-depth discussion, read the UBS/PwC report, reproduced on our website.

About the survey: A number of sources were utilized to research and profile the characteristics of wealthy individuals. These were blended into a mosaic analytical framework from which we conducted extensive modeling and analysis. This information and data is part of PwC proprietary data and analytics structures and is non-commercial in nature and specifically non-attributable regarding the identity of any underlying individual or family. PwC acts as a supplier of data and analysis for the purpose of this report. In addition, the following were specifically leveraged as a part of our research: (1) PwC has a significant body of research drawn from publishing studies on wealth and private banking, and family businesses, including current and future perspectives on a number of industries from which we were able to derive insights. These include The Global Private Bank– ing and Wealth Management Survey (2013, 2011, 2009) and the Asset Management 2020, A Brave New World (2014), and Family Business Survey: Up Close and Professional (2014); (2) For the long-term time series (1900 to 2013) of wealth and income, we used the The World Top Incomes Database (Facundo Alvaredo, Tony Atkinson, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez) (accessed on 12/2014); (3) Other analysis is based on our proprietary PwC databases which cover nonclient-specific detailed bottom-up data on more than 1,300 billionaires from the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Turkey, Italy, Spain, China, India, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Russia. This is a private noncommercial data structure designed to support analysis of specific market segments; (4) For the research on personality traits, we utilized research done by Gallup and Inc. magazine (September 2014, “Inside the mind of the entrepreneur”) on the entrepreneurial personality traits; (5) Nordhaus, William D., “Schumpeterian in the American Economy: Theory and Measurement.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper W10433, 2004; (6) Specific interviews with more than 30 billionaires in various geographic regions were conducted exclusively by PwC, and the information from those qualitative discussions was incorporated on a nonattributable basis without regard to any business/client relationship with any person, firm or organization. Thomas Mantione and Andrew Shantz are Financial Advisors with UBS Financial Services Inc. in Stamford, Conn. UBS Financial Services Inc. Financial Advisor(s) engage Worth to feature this article. As a firm providing wealth management services to clients, we offer both investment advisory and brokerage services. These services are separate and distinct, differ in material ways and are governed by different laws and separate contracts. For more information on the distinctions between our brokerage and investment advisory services, please speak with your Financial Advisor or visit our website at UBS Financial Services Inc., its affiliates and its employees are not in the business of providing tax or legal advice. Clients should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of UBS Financial Services Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC.

This article was originally published in the February/March 2016 issue of Worth.