Chinese billionaires find themselves in a bit of a conundrum. They are short on money. Yes, you read that correctly. Chinese billionaires are facing a cash shortage and that is causing a fair number of billionaires to lose their 10 figure fortunes. A recent study at two Chinese universities found that access to financing is one of the top factors that can determine the success or failure of budding billionaire entrepreneurs.
China has been in a period of unprecedented economic boom since the late 1970s. As a result, there has been a rapid rise of a whole new class of Chinese billionaires. Nearly all of them are self-made. In fact, the rise in billionaires in China has been so swift, that in 2015, the country overtook the United States as the home of the largest number of billionaires in the world.
Unlike in the U.S., there is a high amount of change in the Chinese billionaire lists. A billionaire may make the 2016 list and not the 2017. Billionaires rise in ranking and fall off the list in much greater proportions than in any other country. Basically, while there has been an explosion of billionaires in China, only a bit more than a third of the billionaires from 2000 to 2013 remained billionaires. Even more puzzling, once a Chinese billionaire falls of the list, he or she is very unlikely to regain billionaire status.
But why does this matter? After all, China is a long way away. Well, it matters because as a rule, self-made billionaires make a large impact on the economic growth of their country. A large rate of failure, such as in China, may not just stunt economic growth, but also leads to turbulence and uncertainty in the local economy.
This leads us to ask what the cause of the high turnover amongst China's billionaire entrepreneurs is. And why do so many of them fail?
The answer to these questions lists largely in the factors that make up billionaire longevity. Those factors include gender, educational background, access to finance, political connections, and an access to social networks. Among first generation billionaires (or former billionaires), those with an MBA were less likely to fail and older, male billionaires were also less likely to fall off the billionaire list.
More than any other factor, it is the access to financing that predicts the failure rate of Chinese billionaire entrepreneurs. It is surprising that billionaires have a shortage of funds due to a lack of access to financing, but that's how it is in China.
Access to political connections also plays a role on the fortunes of Chinese billionaires—both positively and negatively. Having ties to political officials helps billionaire longevity. However, losing these connections—which is pretty inevitable in China—can be a leading cause of a billionaire not only losing his or her fortune, but also ending up in jail.
The high failure rate of Chinese billionaires can really be traced back to a lack of access to finance. China simply doesn't have the robust world of VC's that the U.S. has. In fact, access to finance is growing tougher for Chinese entrepreneurs due to the country's state-owned banks tightening access to financing and credit as well as placing more restrictions on just what any financing obtained can be used for.
This does not bode well for future Chinese billionaires. Without access to finance to grow their businesses, how can they sustain their high net worth?