Interview: Roger Gifford
Which sectors provide opportunities for cooperation between the City of London and Mongolia?
ROGER GIFFORD: The opportunities for London-based services in Mongolia are mainly around financial services, banking, infrastructure financing and accounting law. In addition, there is also potential for design and project management service, but in any case, we need to have a better understanding of the real opportunities in Mongolia to complete this list.
The City of London is looking to create partnerships with Mongolian companies rather than direct sale, as this would be more beneficial for both sides.
The Mongolian Stock Exchange will have a strong role to play in the country’s economy, especially given its potential to reach $45bn in terms of market capitalisation. The challenge at this point is getting the right regulatory, investment and legal structures in place to allow for a win-win scenario both for the government and private investors. A bad deal today can have negative repercussions for 10 or 15 years, and this is the area where we have real expertise and we could add great value to the bigger picture.
Having the right structure will allow for the right kind of money to come in through the stock exchange, with companies investing in it, and also through individual investors in major projects. These are, in our experience, extremely important in the longer term and they are areas where British expertise and knowledge can provide the greatest assistance to help boost Mongolia’s economy.
What are the biggest differences between London and Ulaanbaatar and what should the latter focus on to develop the city?
GIFFORD: London has been developed over decades as a financial and trading centre. As the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar has the potential to become a regional financial centre and perhaps even an international financial centre. However, the city is currently in a developmental stage and for this outcome to become a reality, it will need both time and the right type of strategies and regulatory structures. Should these be put in place, the city could well meet its ambitions for its local and global role in the future.
Along with the disparity we see in the developmental stage of our two capitals, size is another factor that distinguishes the cities. London has a population of 10m people, which creates a different feel to a city that is home to just over 1.2m people, and this has to be also taken into account when thinking about the type of infrastructure developments that Ulaanbaatar needs going forward.
How might the City of London help in ensuring a successful transfer of knowledge and skills to Mongolian companies?
GIFFORD: The areas where the City of London can help in are in law and accounting for the banking sector. Having more professional British clusters in this area could add significantly to Mongolian businesses. Therefore, opening the system and letting more British firms establish themselves here would be one way forward. There are 250 foreign banks and around 300 foreign law firms operating in London. The City is not about the UK anymore. It has rather become a centre for international professional services, and we therefore have great expertise in transferring knowledge and skills to foreign partners.
On another note, there is also significant British expertise in areas such as engineering, manufacturing, energy, and health care that we have yet to explore fully with our Mongolian counterparts. However, most significantly, there are great opportunities to collaborate in the education sector. This is true first for the university segment, where, as we do in many parts of the world, we can offer English language tuition, but also in terms of providing a British-standard education to improve the qualification, preparation and knowledge of the local workforce and to help Mongolians keep pace with development.
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