Day 3 - Mongolia
Tsengel hugjil SCC - first day at credit union.
As we walked to the credit union through the dry hard and very rough stone and dust roads I was amazed by the number of kids. Girls walking hand and hand with white puffy bows in their long braids; and dads walking with their little boys holding hands, a shining example of the importance of family.
We arrived at the credit union at 9:30. The credit union was very nice inside, proudly showing pictures and awards from community events. Everyone was smartly dressed, wearing suites; but me, feeling a little embarrassed - wearing a golf shirt and kaki pants.
The CEO, Mr. Baibolat, provided an overview of the credit union. The credit union was established in 2004 by Mr. Baibolat and 25 other founding members. We met with the Board and staff. The current board were all original founding members. I smile, as one of the board members reminds me of someone I worked for in our credit union system in Saskatchewan. I tell the gentlemen the story and he laughs - and now says he is my boss.
The board shares the story of the credit union's establishment, beginnings and its amazing success in just a short few years. This is incredible given the mistrust that exists among the people in the financial sector - but most of all the credit unions. In the late 90's people opened financial service outfits, and called themselves credit unions - having no proper incorporation or governance. A number of these so called credit unions failed or were shut down by the government - many people lost their savings. Building this trust again remains a challenge for the credit union.
The board then peppers us with questions, asking about Conexus' strategies, how to grow, about dividends, tax, and building trust to name a few. It was amazing to experience such emotion and passion in building this credit union.
At the end of the day, many board members return, along with a local government official from the province's governor office. The CEO pulls out a 26 of scotch whiskey, a female staff member comes in and begins pouring everyone drinks. We drink the entire bottle (customary to finish the bottle) and take turns toasting. Toasting is not just a few words to good health or prosperity, but long philosophical stories consisting of thanks, praise, quotes, and ideology. I have the opportunity to do two such toasts. In my second I make up for my first: my first being about only 60 seconds, I go on for at least 5 minutes the second time round - but it becomes easier the more one drinks. This form of relationship building is an important part of the culture, but also central to the credit union that put significant on relationship and trust.
What was most enlightening for me was to experience the beginning of a credit union. Stories of our history which I can only read about. Listening breathed new life into me; enthused and motivated more than ever to be part of the credit union system and continue to build its strength.
Mr. Bailbalot invited us back to his house for dinner. His wife prepared an amazing spread, which we washed down with fermented mares milk and a bottle of vodka.