Mongolia's best bank for CSR 2019: Arig Bank
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Mongolia's best bank for CSR 2019: Arig Bank

Arig Bank

Naranbaatar Radnaa, Acting CEO, Arig Bank.jpg
Naranbaatar Radnaa, Arig Bank

If ever there was a bank that wore its mission statement on its proverbial forehead, it’s the one over which Naranbaatar Radnaa presides. All it takes is walking through the front door of the bank’s modest Ulaanbaatar headquarters to see that sustainability permeates everything Arig does.

The lobby furniture and the Calder-esque chandeliers are made from recyclable plastic bottles. The reception staff’s uniforms are constructed of recycled materials. There’s even an energy-monitoring control room.

But the real story is the roof, which is covered with 42 solar panels. Standing in the background, just one block away, are giant coal-fired smokestacks billowing out the black smoke that pollutes Mongolia’s capital city.

“This is my daily reminder of what we do here,” says Narantsetseg Jamiyan, Arig’s chief operating officer.

The look downstairs is plenty instructive, too. Arig’s headquarters feels more like a Silicon Valley startup than a 22-year-old lender. Wooden floors, cement walls, open-air offices, ping-pong tables and quotes from famous innovators decorating the walls, from visionaries as varied as Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Salvador Dali.

Arig’s chosen Dali quote – ‘Don’t be afraid to be different’ – really does seem to be the bank’s raison d’être. Its ever-growing commitment to financing the low-carbon projects the nation desperately needs makes Arig yet again a shoo-in for the corporate social responsibility award.

So-called green loans are becoming an ever-bigger part of its overall portfolio. Arig, Narantsetseg says, is focusing more attention on lending to entrepreneurs looking to lower Mongolia’s carbon footprint and diversify the economy away from the fossil fuels driving a bull market in face masks. Of particular interest is supporting projects that bring clean drinking water to all corners of the country.

But Arig is an interesting study of a bank passionate about a job that is typically the purview of governments: teaching financial literacy. It runs a sprawling ‘ger kindergarten’ network of courses given to young Mongolians in the traditional tents that nomadic tribes made famous.

Shareholders love Arig’s outreach to the bank customers of tomorrow. Mongolia’s central government, though, should be thanking Arig for playing a key role in helping to spread the benefits of economic growth far beyond the shopping plazas and high-rise apartments of the capital.

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