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From First Ladies to Football Clubs: a sparkling Doing Business with Mongolia seminar

27 Jan seminar photo (higher res)

Under Genghis’ watchful eye: panel members Carolyn Clarke, Stephen Tricks, John Digby-Jones and Paul Watson discuss tips and experiences of the Mongolian business world.

(27 January 2014)  The New Year’s first Chamber of Commerce event saw a lively panel of speakers present useful tips and candid insights into the fast-moving world of Mongolian business and politics.

Hosted by PWC at its Embankment headquarters, the seminar began with a historical overview by eminent historian and writer John Man. The author of many books, including the classic Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection, he raised a chuckle with his description of the young Genghis’s vision that “the world belonged to the Mongols – he just had no idea of how big the world was!”

PWC’s Carolyn Clarke described how she set up the first of the Big Four accounting firms’ offices in Ulaabaatar four years ago. She was also a founding member of a group of expatriate women – largely heads of agencies and embassies – who banded together as informal club of “First Ladies”, exchanging information and support in an occasionally challenging new posting. Recently returned to the UK, Carolyn offered a number of tips for doing business in Mongolia, notably on the importance of patience. “You may go to a meeting and think nothing happened – but then a couple of months later you’ll find things have moved forward. Mongolians do business collaboratively, and that takes time.” She also noted that the majority of graduates in Mongolian universities are women, and advised, “When you go to a meeting, don’t ignore the woman who is sitting quietly taking notes – she may well be the best qualified person in the room.”

Lawyer Stephen Tricks of Clyde & Co likened Mongolia’s rapid but somewhat erratic legislative progress to steering a Formula One racing car: “The direction and the speed have to be corrected fairly frequently – but it is still moving ahead at great speed.” He briefly discussed the recently passed Law of Mongolia on Investment, which replaces the “law with the long name” that so alarmed the foreign investment community, and concluded that the racing car had corrected its direction of travel in a pragmatic way. “Go there,” he advised people interested in investing in Mongolia.

The next speaker, John Digby-Rogers of Investment Capital Ltd, has done exactly that. He described buying an apartment in the town of Dharkan as the latest stage in his successful five-year pursuit of a project to produce smokeless fuel for the Mongolian market. John had a great deal of practical advice to offer, including how to build long-term business relationships and the importance of solid arbitration arrangements.

Last up was football coach Paul Watson, who gave an entertaining account of his efforts to improve the world’s worst national football team in Micronesia (“They’d been beaten 11-nil by Guam – and they wanted revenge!”) before taking up his current challenge of creating a flagship Mongolian football club in Ulaanbaatar. His objective: moving Mongolia up 100 places in the FIFA standings over the next few years – an eminently feasible challenge, in his opinion.

The evening concluded with a number of questions from the audience, and a reception to mark the Mongolian New Year, Tsagaan Sar, which ushers in the Year of the Horse.

January 28, 2014