Mongolia on fire

Ganhuyag Chuluun Hutagt Mongolia’s former Vice-Minister of Finance

Mr. Hutagt:  “We are sitting on trillions of dollars of natural wealth under the ground”

During the last Mobile, Mongolia was the big surprise. A virtually unknown country that is fast-forwarding into the future. For The Smart City Journal it is an honor to be able to bring to our platform one of the leading promoters of that future.

Ganhuyag Chuluun Hutagt is a highly successful and innovative banking executive, entrepreneur, and Mongolia’s former Vice-Minister of Finance. With 30 years of experience in the banking and microfinance industry, he is also a champion for financial inclusion.

As the CEO and founder of Ard Financial Group, Mr. Hutagt serves as chairman of Ard Holdings’ various subsidiaries including Ard Credit, Ard Insurance, and Ard Securities. Under his leadership, Ard Holdings became the second largest company on the Mongolian Stock Exchange.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Hutagt was the founding Executive Director of Mongolia’s first non-bank microfinance company, XAC (Golden Fund for Development). As Executive Director, he formed the internationally successful XacBank which Forbes Magazine named as one of the top 100 global microfinance institutions. It was also the first Mongolian bank to receive international ratings from Moody’s Investors Service.

Mr. Hutagt is passionate about financial inclusion in Mongolia, and he served in a variety of leadership roles within the Mongolian government. He served as an advisor to the President of Mongolia and Prime Minister of Mongolia and is a founding member of the Mongolia Economic Forum.

Mr. Hutagt is celebrated as a financial leader on the world stage and is widely recognized for his contributions to social entrepreneurship and youth engagement initiatives. In 2009, he was nominated to the Forum of Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, and he is currently Chair of Global Dignity in Mongolia.

He was also recognized as one of the Top 10 Alumni of his alma mater, Corvinus University of Budapest.

Mr. Hutagt graduated from the Budapest University of Economic Sciences in 1997, and lives in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, with his wife and children.

TSCJ.- What do you think is the position of your country at this moment in view of the development of the economy with the new technology? 

Mr. Hutagt.- Traditionally, Mongolia has relied on agriculture and mining. Mining is driving today’s growth, is our main export and it will remain so for the foreseeable future. 

However, Mongolia has been able to position itself well to take advantage of the efficiencies and benefits offered by the technological innovations of recent years. 

A standing committee of the Parliament was created to establish a policy framework for innovation and digital transformation in 2018. Last year, a new Ministry for Digital Development was created.

The Cabinet led by Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene has identified six priority areas where mining revenues will be invested in the next decade so that we develop our other industries, to diversify and modernise the Mongolian economy. 

The initial results of this strategy have been positive - we have a vibrant fintech sector, with all financial services now provided online. The Parliament has approved a law covering virtual asset service providers, improving oversight of these entities. The Mongolian Central Bank issues digital currency licenses, whilst trading on the stock exchange is fully digitized. 

The Government launched the 'E-Mongolia' app four years ago, allowing citizens to access services such as getting a marriage certificate and registering a property, obtaining travel documents and credit information, which until recently were all paper-based.

Though Mongolia still faces challenges, particularly related to us being such a young country, this embracing of technology and the modernisation of our economy and society which is resulting from it will leave us better able to continue going from strength to strength in the years ahead.

TSCJ.- Entrepreneurs like you, in Mongolia, where do you think the next economic unicorns are?

Mr. Hutagt.- Well, for a start, I would certainly hope that Ard Financial Group would be on that list! It's certainly something that we're working hard towards.

I started Mongolia’s first financial services group, and now we are building the second one - a better one, I believe. We have invested in the licensed stock exchange, are partners with the Government in the country’s postal network, and have leading IT solutions providers and banking platforms in our portfolio. 

Sometime ago I coined the phrase 'Mongolia’s Wolf Economy' to illustrate our potential and development strategy. I think the country's natural endowments and location in the world make us the perfect candidate to become the financial centre in the region. And with our work above and across other related areas, Ard is ideally placed to play a key part in supporting that journey.

TSCJ.- Do you think the Metaverse and Artificial Intelligence are going to change the world?

Mr. Hutagt.- I do. And they already are. Just look at the amount of discussion at the moment about Chat GPT, for example. 

At Ard, our lender disburses loans based on automated credit scoring, and use of chatbots is normal course of business for us. Ard is also currently venturing into Web3 and related developments centred on the next major evolution of the World Wide Web.

Elsewhere, we are behind the first (though it certainly won't be the last) rock concert in the metaverse, by Mongolian band 'The Hu'. Held on 30th March on the proprietary platform 'Metaland', the concert will be delivered through harnessing our entire ecosystem which encompasses an open NFT marketplace, stablecoin, cryptocurrency, virtual wallet and a payments platform. 

TSCJ.- One of the main current commitments of both cities and territories or countries is in attracting and retaining talent. How do you plan to attract and retain talent?

Mr. Hutagt.- To me the most crucial thing is understanding the link between attracting foreign investment and making cities attractive for talented people to live in. No amount of money can substitute for that - investments chase profits, and profits are made by people. People want to live in safe, pleasant cities where they can work and live and grow their families. That's why it's such a high priority for us to work with our partners, including the Government, to help make Ulaanbaatar as internationally competitive as possible.

TSCJ.- You must understand that Mongolia is a great unknown to many people around the world. What three characteristics define the future path of your country?

Mr. Hutagt.- I firmly believe in the future of Mongolia. I am biased, of course, in making that statement, but the facts speak for themselves. We are sitting on trillions of dollars of natural wealth under the ground. We are the only democracy in the Eurasian space from Eastern Europe to Korea and India. Though Mongolia has a population of less than 3.5 million, we cover a vast land area situated between two giant neighbours. 

'Welcome to Mongolia!' is the motto of the 2023 Mongolia Economic Forum to be held on July 9-10, followed by the Naadam national festival. With Mongolia's economy recovering strongly from the pandemic, now is the time to come and explore the country, meet new people and see what opportunities there are in store.

It's clear. You need to bet on Mongolia, a country with a future.

Manuel Tarin Alonso


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