Due to the lockdowns in recent weeks, most EBRD partner banks have had to close offices and minimise physical contact with customers. Unfortunately not all of them have managed to connect their staff to systems that allow them to work remotely.
In order to retain key employees and keep their businesses going, many of these banks approached the EBRD, submitting a record number of applications for their banking staff to participate in our Trade Finance e-Learning Programme.
The EBRD’s award-winning programme of trade finance training is the largest online educational platform provided by any international financial institution. It offers advanced modules in trade finance including factoring, compliance and environmental regulations, for more than 9,000 students from 415 banks and companies throughout the EBRD regions. To achieve better coverage, some courses have been translated into Arabic, French, Russian and other languages. Here is our story from Mongolia, where the EBRD seems to have found the right approach for its clients.
Despite Mongolia’s rich history, in which its language was once essential across Asia, Mongolian today has a fairly compact geographical reach and this naturally brings certain limitations when it comes to international relations, and to trade in particular.
Currently, trade is especially important as the world adjusts to the new reality of ‘going back to basics’. Nowadays, being a successful trader is a matter of survival: spare parts and raw materials must come into the country and finished goods must travel back.
The EBRD is happy to enable this process by expanding its Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP) – a well-oiled trade finance mechanism that supports exporters and importers across multiple economies.
This crisis-proof facility has been able to deliver successfully throughout the difficult periods that the world has faced in the past 30 years. The TFP provides much-needed support to firms in Mongolia and elsewhere by helping them to better manage commodity stocks and plan for longer trade cycles. This is particularly vital when the availability of commercial trade finance credit lines is under significant pressure.
As in any other field, professional expertise is important. To bring a transaction to fruition, bankers need to have advanced skills in trade finance, know the latest compliance standards and manage complex risks.
With this in mind, and in order to reach professional audiences remotely, the EBRD launched its Trade Finance e-Learning Programme, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
In some cases, running a programme of this kind is easier said than done, because training materials often need adapting to local needs. Given the linguistic complexities in a country such as Mongolia, we needed to rely fully on trusted local intermediaries.
A perfect fit
Step forward our long-term local partner, Khan Bank, Mongolia’s largest lender; it was a perfect fit for the task. It volunteered to translate our best-loved course, Introduction to Trade Finance, for its staff and clients.
In late 2018, the financial institution, which has 500 branches, more than 4,000 employees across the country and provides banking services to approximately two-thirds of Mongolian households, decided to translate the EBRD’s TFP training materials into the local language. This was an instant hit: to date, almost 1,120 local professionals from 21 different companies have enrolled for the course in Mongolian. Almost 40 per cent of them have completed the module and received their certificates.
Most of the participants have been bankers but the course has also attracted staff from local corporations such as APU, Bosa Impex, BSB Computers, Doctor Auto Chain, MEIC, Shunkhlai Group, Nomin Holding and many others. Khan Bank also managed to increase its trade finance portfolio by around 20 per cent between late 2018 and the spring of 2020.
While the economic turmoil is likely to continue, certain products and alliances are here to stay, and will adapt and survive. This certainly applies to the partnership between the EBRD and Khan Bank, which will make local firms and the Mongolian economy stronger.