Key takeaways

  • Wealth of tech and health care billionaires surges amid pandemic
  • Overall billionaire net worth grew to new high of $10.2 trillion at end of July
  • Gains point to further signs of K-shaped recovery

The wealth of tech sector and health care billionaires around the world grew 42.5% and 50.3%, respectively, during 2018, 2019 and the first seven months of 2020, according to a new UBS and PricewaterhouseCoopers report. In comparison, the overall rate of billionaire wealth growth over the period was 19.1%. The wealth of billionaires in entertainment, financial services, materials and real estate sectors lagged the rest with increases of 10% or less.

The report argues the fortunes of billionaires are polarizing with a cohort of disruptors and innovators, commonly found in tech and health care and rare in traditional sectors like real estate and finance, pulling ahead of the pack and seeing their wealth grow at a faster pace. The pandemic is said to have only accelerated this recent trend, with Industrial sector billionaires also disproportionately benefiting.

"This is a key moment in economic history, a time of exceptional, Schumpeterian creative destruction. Scientists, computer programmers and engineers are revolutionizing industries at a pace never seen before and they are having a profound impact on the whole of the global economy," said the report. " Most of the decade was a time of exceptional prosperity for billionaires regardless of sector, but in the last two years those using technology to change their business models, products and services have pulled ahead. The COVID-19 crisis just accentuated this divergence"

According to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index, the following 10 individuals saw the biggest increases in their net worths in 2020 (in dollar amounts).

  1. Elon Musk, Tesla: +$73 billion (Tech)
  2. Jeff Bezos, Amazon: +$68.4 billion (Tech)
  3. Zhong Shanshan, Nongfu Spring and Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy: +$49 billion (Diversified)
  4. Dan Gilbert, Rocket Companies: +$27.2 billion (Real Estate)
  5. Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries: +$26.2 billion (Energy)
  6. MacKenzie Scott, Amazon: +$22.5 billion (Tech)
  7. Eric Yuan, Zoom Video Communications: +$20.5 billion (Tech)
  8. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook: +$19.7 billion (Tech)
  9. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft: +$16.5 billion (Tech)
  10. Goh Cheng Liang, Wuthelam Holdings: +$14.9 billion (Industrial)

Overall billionaire wealth hit a new high of $10.2 trillion at the end of July as stocks shrugged off pandemic worries, surpassing the previous peak of $8.9 trillion which was reached at the end of 2017. (see chart below) There are now 2,189 billionaires, up from 2,158 in 2017.

billionaire wealth
Source: UBS, PwC.