Pete Morrow, the guy who salvaged Khan Bank (or Xaan Bank) and made it into the biggest bank in Mongolia, is the guy I met up with to discuss possible funding at the restaurant that had no electricity. He invited me that Wednesday evening for a personal tour of all the bank's art. It was a lot of fun--Mongolia does have its own small and very interesting community. Some amazing stuff happens. Camels and big sky and gers are all magnetic to the eye, really great shapes to work with. All sorts of stuff. Installations. Oil. Abstract. As with the great writers and great ballet dancers of Mongolia, the great visual artists went to Moscow to study. The bank was large and on every floor was a different sort of layout. One floor had glass booths. Behind his desk is an altar with the burnables and sage and seed at the foot of a tapestry--when they moved to the new building the bank employees finally had someone tell pete that they felt uneasy working at a bank that didn't honor the god of money. Pete knows good feeling of employees is central. I asked him for the summary of how he salvaged the bank. It was actually pretty simple, but it took someone like Pete to do it. He still has the World Bank assessment of "there is no way to save this bank" framed on the wall behind his office chair. He had a poll guy go in and find out who was keeping how much money where--and most people, of course, were keeping their money stashes in their gers, lending and borrowing from friends and family, etc. So he just lowered the amount of cash needed to open an account and upped the interest rate about 5 points above what Mongolian neighbors charged each other, and also put new bank branches in the tiny outpost centers. Just need to pay rent and the salary of one or two people, a tiny bit for pencils and paper--this was all ten years ago now.
There were two bottles of white wine waiting in the ger outside the fourth floor of the bank, on the rooftop. Around the ger were pictures hanging on the wall of Chinggis and his descendants. It was bizarre to see Ulaanbaatar through the windows of this bank, which is taller than a lot of buildings in UB. It was a purple kind of dusk and the bigger buildings all look real different--one white building looks like it came here from Paris. It used to be the Russian embassy compound and now it's where wealthy Russian businessmen stay.
He then had his driver take us to banditos, the Hispanic/Indian fusion food restaurant where we got a lot of excellent drunk food--quesadilles, samosas, etc. He was lots of fun to talk to. He gave me a book about a monk.