Early Life and Education

I was born and raised in Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar. My father was a car mechanic and a chauffeur, and my mother worked as an accountant. I am the oldest of three boys, and I was always a curious and ambitious child – always dreaming about my future. I was also very adventurous and loved to read. I dreamed about becoming an astronaut, owning a nice car, and having a beautiful family. Now when I look back – apart from flying through space, of course – I think I have gone above and beyond what I dreamed as a kid.

In the early 1990s, when I was about 17 years-old, my family got into the export/import business. This meant they would buy goods from China or Singapore to sell in Mongolia, or sell Chinese goods in Russia. The business allowed them to make more money, and save for the future.

After graduating high school, I told my mom that I wasn’t going to apply to any universities. I was young, felt that I was done with learning, and knew enough about life that I didn’t need a university degree. I wasn’t interested in a career in finance, but it’s not because I never thought about money – quite the contrary. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a child, so I always thought about it. Since I didn’t plan to go to university, my mom thought I could work at the Mongolian Stock Exchange. I got the job, and started making double what my parents made. The money was great, but after one year, I realized my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to join my family’s trading business, so I got involved in moving goods between China and Russia. We started to earn even more money, and one day while visiting Hungary, I decided I wanted to stay and attend university there. By that time, I was 19 years-old and my family could afford to send me to the prestigious Corvinus University.

But one year later, our lives completely changed. My father was 41 years-old when he died of liver cancer, and it had a profound impact on my family and I. At only 20 years-old in my freshman year, I became the head of the family. I felt that I had to take care of my mother, who was left widowed at 40, and my two brothers – especially my youngest one, who was only six years-old. I had no clue how we would survive, and how I would continue my schooling. But my mother stepped in, and she used the money she and my father worked so hard for to pay my tuition. Because of her, I was able to continue with my studies and graduate from the Budapest University of Economic Sciences, now known as Corvinus University, in 1997. This was a defining moment for me, because it put me on the path to success. Following a brief stint at ice cream production with my mom after I graduated, I accepted a job at the Central Bank. To this day, I feel like I will never truly be able to repay the debt that I owe to my mother.

New Beginnings

The late 1990s marked many new beginnings for me. My father had passed away, and I was just about to graduate from university and embark on my banking career. But one major life change would impact my future descendants, and what they would forever be known as.

In 1997, I was asked to invent my family’s last name, which would be carried on through generations to come.

In Mongolia, we have had a very unique history. We were conquerors, and then we were conquered. We were ruled by Manchu emperors for over 300 years, followed by a century of Soviet rule. Throughout these centuries, our rulers wanted us to forget our history, our ancestors, and our roots. They wanted us to forget who we were and where we came from, so we were not allowed to have family clans – including family names. Historically, and up until 1997, the father’s first name would become the family name. For example, my father’s first name was Chuluun and that was our family name when I was growing up. Then when I started a family, it was expected that my name would become my child’s family name – so there would be no connection between my father and his grandchild.

Unfortunately, this system was so effective that Mongolians today don’t know where they came from. We can’t trace back through a family tree. In 1997, the Mongolian government changed this system and asked everybody to come up with a last name. The government was then going to re-issue new ID cards with our new last names.

Even though I had uncles who were still alive and could have chosen the family name, I was asked to do it. I was in my early 20s, still a student, and tasked with inventing a family name that would carry on through the ages. I decided on “Hutagt,” which in English means holy re-incarnation. A Hutagt is like a priest, or Buddhist Lama that is re-incarnated. I didn’t have any particular reason why I chose this name 25 years ago. As a young man, it just sounded good to me at the time.

Surprisingly, I didn’t really feel any pressure taking on this task. I considered it to be more of a privilege to establish our family dynasty name. I approached it the same way I approach any monumental task, whether it’s good or bad. I try not to overanalyze, and try and be in the moment. If it’s an enormous task, I always break it up into smaller bits.

Twenty-five years later, I am still happy with the name I chose. I feel grateful that when I have grandchildren someday, I will share their name. And, it means a lot to me to know that my descendants will have the opportunity to trace their lineage and that all future Mongolians will know where they came from.

Making An Impact Through My Career

When I graduated in 1997, I landed my first finance job out of school at the Central Bank. This marked the beginning of my career in banking and finance.

I met with the vice governor of the Central Bank upon graduating, and started working in the bank’s Supervision Department. But after one year in that job, I realized I wasn’t very good at being a small piece of something big. I wanted to do more, so while at the Central Bank, I helped start one of the very first credit unions in Mongolia which is still operating today. It has grown since its inception, and is now the most successful credit union in Mongolia. I am very proud of how my team and I led pioneering efforts that changed the way we did business in our country.

Throughout my career, I have always been an early starter. I try and be very punctual, and I always finish a task – whether its big or small – no matter what. I think what has also helped me along the way is creativity. I have noticed throughout my career that if you apply creativity to mundane tasks, it makes your life easier and also more exciting.

I also had many mentors along the way who helped me, both professionally and within my family. These people shaped my career, and I always wanted to do the same for others.

My oldest son, Hasar-Dashdorj, is the person who shaped my life and career the most. When he was born in 1997, he suffered brain damage during birth. It was a tragedy that impacted me greatly, and was a defining moment in my life. When he was born, I had to accept that my first-born son would never have the same opportunities I have had. That’s when I wanted to devote my life to changing the system, and putting an end to injustices through my work in finance and government.

I want to give those who are disadvantaged a boost in life so they can make their own choices. When I created Ard Holdings, one of my priorities was hiring those with disabilities. We also work with para-athletes and offer accessibility programs. While I have spearheaded many initiatives to help those who are disabled, Hasar-Dashdorj is the one who has truly made an impact on their lives.

At XacBank, it was very important to me to set up the Future Millionaire savings program, so parents could start contributing to their child’s future as soon as they were born. I also wanted to make banking accessible to all Mongolians, no matter where they lived, because I believe that everybody should have an equal opportunity at achieving wealth. I wanted to give opportunities to people who were unemployed and homeless. One recent hire, in particular, had a profound impact on me. He was a homeless single father of a disabled daughter, and they lived out of his car. As a father myself, I couldn’t imagine being in that position. I hired him to supervise the parking lot outside of our office building, and now he and his daughter are living in a three-bedroom home. This middle-aged man who transformed his life is very inspirational to me, and illustrates the huge difference you can make just by giving somebody a job. I also try and make a positive impact on the world through my volunteer efforts – particularly with Global Shapers and Global Dignity.

In 1991, I started out as a floor manager on the Mongolian Stock Exchange (MSE). And exactly 30 years later as founder and CEO of Ard Holdings, I acquired the Mongolian Securities Exchange.

Over the past three decades, I have had many life-changing and defining experiences and achieved many of my goals. Throughout it all, I have never forgotten the lessons I learned along the way, and the values that were instilled in me at a young age.