Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tech and finance in the Forbes 2013 billionaire list

Summary: A rough breakdown of the 2013 Forbes billionaire list members classified to the technology and finance sectors, in terms of numbers, total wealth, and age. While finance-related billionaires outnumber tech billionaires substantially, the advantage is much less in terms of total wealth. Tech is better represented among American and especially among younger billionaires. Many disclaimers apply, and data on these extremes should not be given excessive weight in evaluating the expected financial returns of careers, which are primarily driven by much less extreme outcomes, and must be adjusted for human capital and population.

Forbes regularly releases a world billionaire list. Some time ago I went through it, trying to get another data point for thinking about tail behavior of careers in technology and finance. The data are not unimpeachable (Forbes fails to detect a fair number of billionaires who are later tracked down by other journalists, and the estimation of wealth is imperfect, beyond public filings of stock holdings and the like), and this is a very rough analysis. There are also many fuzzy boundary cases in the industry classification.

The extreme tail of billionaires is also a bad way to evaluate careers on its own: these numbers are not adjusted for the number of potential feeder positions, the human capital of competitors, and similar factors. Most compensation in these industries goes to employees, not to billionaire stockholders/founders, and patterns are quite different at different levels. The data below are only one small part of a larger picture.

The data also reflect in part sectoral shifts, and patterns of growth in different industries: fast-expanding and disrupted industries may provide more opportunities for billionaires founding new companies, as opposed to established players. Past industry performance is no guarantee of future performance.

Tech and finance billionaires: numbers, wealth, age
The 2013 Forbes global list of billionaires counts 1,426 billionaires with a net worth of $5.4 trillion, broken down by country, industry, age, and net worth. The category ‘investments’ includes hedge fund managers, private equity managers, and asset managers such as Warren Buffett. This is the category most relevant for Wall Street financiers prospects of billionaire status. The additional ‘finance’ category looks to be primarily retail and commercial banking. Globally, total billionaire wealth is comparable between the investors/financiers and technology entrepreneurs, although somewhat more widely distributed in finance.

Source of wealth
Number of billionaires
Total wealth
$487 B
564 B
216 B
American Tech
$355 B
American Investments
$413 B
American Finance
$17 B
American Tech 60 years or younger
$262 B
American Investments 60 years or younger
$126 B
American Tech 50 years or younger
$142 B
American Investments 50 years or younger
$35 B

The American tech billionaires had a median age of 58, while the investments billionaires had a median age of 64.

No comments: