APABI Talks with BFA, Mongolia: Not yet Ready for Visitors



It was not until November 11, 2020 that Mongolia announced its first case of community transmission of COVID. By May-June, it unfortunately started overtaking other countries to eventually reach Asia’s highest cumulative case count per capita (although these official statistics may vary in quality across countries).

Mongolia is currently among the top 20 countries in the world by vaccination rate, so this outbreak should quiet down as time goes on. For the time being, however, travel remains difficult, said Bumchimeg Gungaa, Chief Executive Officer the Banking and Finance Academy of Mongolia (BFAM). The APABI conference next year, which BFAM is hosting, will likely take place in the second half of the year. Ms. Gungaa hopes that it will be held as a physical event.

During the interview, BFAM also had some insights on the transition to online formats. During the lockdowns this year, state-owned organizations were required to reduce their in-person staffing to 30%, which drastically increased demand for online training. Online classes, including both live and self-paced formats, increased from 29% of BFAM’s offerings in 2019 to 93% in 2020.

Despite the decisive change in format, BFAM doesn’t consider the new methods to be sustainable in their current form. Bank staffers complain that the lack of in-person classes makes concentration difficult. Many are attending classes not from home, but from work, where they face the same interruptions as they do during their main work. Clients haven’t been able to provide dedicated spaces for individual learning.

Students also complain about the lack of in-class interaction. All of these are issues that could be potentially resolved at some point, but BFAM currently plans to go back to in-person classes when they become available.

Mongolia’s economic response to the pandemic has been substantial, amounting to 43.2% of 2020 GDP – the bulk of which involved bank lending. Asset quality has deteriorated accordingly, causing higher workload. Meanwhile, in the middle of all this, several important banks have also been working on their IPOs. As a result, overall demand for training is down.

One of BFAM’s current research projects will investigate longer-term changes in training needs. This is an area where cooperation with peer countries will be useful. Although it is too early to give final plans, BFAM is aiming for the latter half of next year for the upcoming APABI conference, avoiding the cold winter. Hopefully, the pandemic situation will also have stabilized by that point.