Capex Asymmetric Trader

A Mongolian Mogul

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Jamul Jadamba is a Mongolian National with an intriguing and diverse background. He’s fast become one of the most valuable members of our on-the-ground network in the country, and he’s a man we are paying a LOT of attention to. You’ll see why over the next few days.

Born in 1976 to a family of doctors, Jamul’s education began at the Russian Embassy School in New Delhi, India. He then attended and graduated from the American Embassy School in New Delhi. From there he proceeded to Northeastern University in Boston.

CIBC in New York scooped him up out of school. His 7-year stint culminated with him in the role of Vice President, Capital Markets. Jamul jumped back into school and received his MBA in Finance from NY University.

From 2007-2011 he held the position of Director, Investment Banking at Rodman & Renshaw, founding the metals and mining group. Finally, in 2011 he founded Mogul Ventures Corp, a coal exploration and development company, and is now the Chairman of AU Mogul Group Inc, a Mongolia-focused boutique merchant bank.

Jamul was recognized in 2010 by the mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia as the leading Investment Advisor to the mining sector. From 2005 through 2011 he was the main contributor for Oxford Analytica, writing on Mongolia’s economic and political developments.

This is a guy who isn’t slowing down. As you’ll see, it’s a trait many Mongolians share – they are extremely hard-working people.

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Chris: Jamul, you’re a busy guy and I know you’ve been working hard lately. Thanks for taking the time to chat. We outlined your experience a bit in the intro to this interview, but give us a really quick “elevator speech” summary of your background.

Jamul: First, thanks for speaking with me today Chris. It’s great to get the chance to tell the Mongolia story from the perspective of a Mongolian.

So, background… my father, Dr. Z. Jadamba, was the first Mongolian to become a Director for a UN organization. My mother, Dr. N. Horloo, was a leading neonatologist and Deputy Director of a children’s hospital. My sister, Dr. J. Tsolmon is the currentl Deputy Minister of Health, and is running in the parliamentary elections this year. Her husband, my brother-in-law, Mr.O. Och is the foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Batbold and has been recently selected to become Mongolia’s next Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the United Nations. My brother, Mr. J. Purevtseren, is an entrepreneur and was a partner in the first private gold mining venture in Mongolia.

Chris: So just a bunch of under-achievers it looks like.

Jamul: (Laughs).

I was just on a call with some of my Aussie shareholders before you rang up. In Mongolia you will see that we’re hard working people, but we’re also a very fun-loving culture. It’s quite different from our other neighbours in Asia who, in my opinion, don’t leave enough time to enjoy life. Mongolia’s quite different in that regard.

I think in terms of Mongolia, we were traditionally pastoral nomads, so basically when the weather is good you have a lot of free time, especially in the summer. The weather is nice; the animals basically take care of themselves. You don’t have a huge workload, which is quite different from being in a society where you’re rice farming on a very small plot of land and you basically do back-breaking labor 24/7.

That nomadic lifestyle also comes with risks, especially in terms of various weather calamities that could wipe out your livestock and livelihood.

Before the invention of repeat firearms, the military capabilities of the Central Asian nomads gave them quite an advantage on the battlefield. In the old days the “insurance” was that when the economy collapsed, Mongolians and other central Asian nomads went and raided their neighbours, (laughs) That was basically “Plan B.”

Chris: I’m reading a history book at present which details some of what you’re talking about. The nomads you discuss had a lot of skill in horsemanship and were akin to guerilla soldiers of today. They would swoop in on a town or village and attack, and literally within minutes disappear back into the hills. I don’t think they held much territory. It was very, very difficult to attack these nomads who were comfortable living in harsh climates in small bands.

One of their significant advantages was that attacking them was extremely difficult. Again much like guerrilla soldiers of today. Finding them was problematic, and then dealing with the inhospitable climes saw standing armies watch many fellow soldiers succumb to disease and freezing temperatures in droves. In contrast the Asian nomads knew how to live in those conditions perfectly well. Not dissimilar to the situation we have today with the war on terror really, where “terrorists” who are essentially nomadic are being attacked with B52 Bombers.

Jamul: It’s actually untrue that they didn’t hold territory. If you look at the history of China for example, four of what the Chinese call “Dynasties” were established by nomads who conquered China and stayed to rule them. There were two Dynasties established by Mongolians. The first was the Liao which was known in the west as Kidan, which is where the word “Cathay” comes from. The Russian word for China, for example, is still “Kitai.”

These were Mongolians who conquered China probably around 900 AD. Then Kublai Khan took charge and his descendents ruled China again from the 12th century onwards. Then another group of nomads known as Manchus, we call them Jurchid, also ruled China twice in two separate Dynasties.

The Qin that you’re referring to are actually not Chinese. They were originally northern nomads just like us. They tried to retain the language and they had very strict laws about marriage with the Chinese. It still did not help them. They became heavily “Sinified” and now they’re basically extinct. I believe there are only 100 people in North China now that can speak the original Manchu language.

Chris: I stand corrected.

Jamul: The problem with Mongolian history is that most of the literature about Mongolia was written by people and civilizations who have suffered from our attacks during the days of the Mongol Empire, so there exists a fair amount of bias (laughs).

That’s how our history has been projected. The original Mongolian historical materials, writings – the few that exist –are known by scholars but haven’t been widely read. There’s a big asymmetry in terms of information and where that information comes from.  We have a historical PR issue is what I like to think.

Chris: That’s a great point Jamul, I think that any clear thinking person needs to read history with the understanding that those who wrote the history book had a bias.

Jamul: I’m a big history buff. I’ve probably read 40-50 books on Mongolian history, so I know it quite well. I have a pretty good idea about what happened in my country over the last millennia or more.

My primary education was in the Russian system so they were also quite heavy in details of Eastern Europe. Their version of European and Eastern history is quite different to that in the West. The focus and the ideology was quite different. It brings an interesting perspective.

Chris: A diverse perspective is, I believe, healthy. It doesn’t matter where your education originally stems from, there is always going to be bias, and often times things you’ve learned which are entirely incorrect.

The educational system I was subjected to in South Africa was one that was very heavily biased toward the white supremacist South African viewpoint. When I look at what I was taught back then, it’s a miracle I haven’t turned into a raving lunatic.

Since that time, even with my more recent, varied education, I find it frightening some of the garbage that has been thrown at me under the guise of “education.”

How do you unwind something like that? It’s not an easy task. What do you think historians will be saying about Mongolia in another 100 years or so?

Jamul: Well I think we’ve been in decline for a long time, in fact, until very recently from a historical point-of-view. People like to talk about China and say China is not rising, rather it’s just sort of claiming its historical role in terms of its economy and political and regional importance. Basically, what I like to say is “guess what, we are a small nation but we’ve always punched above our weight, historically.”

Huge changes in global, political and economic landscapes came about because of movements of inner-Asian people such as Mongolians. Before the Mongolians were the Huns. After the Huns there were the Turks and after the Turks there was us. Each of these people were similar in cultures and economies, and they shaped the Eurasian continent quite heavily.

Until the 18th century Mongolia was a regional military power to reckon with. At one point in time the Mongolian language was spoken as the lingua franca of Asia. We’ve been historically very influential in the region. The country fell to hard times once it was integrated into China’s Manchu Dynasty, and was in decline until the beginning of the last century, when Mongolia became a sovereign nation again.

We paid for our sovereignty because we had to rely on Communist Russia to defend it, and as part of that we’ve experienced over 70 years of communism – not exactly 70 years, but probably in its true form, something like 40-50 years of Stalinist dictatorship.

We snapped out of that finally in the 90s and opened the country to the wider world. Within just over a decade we’ve found big, world-class mineral deposits. Now everyone looks at the country and says, “Hey, this country is sandwiched between the Bear and the Dragon, it’s actually not in a bad location. They happen to have all the good stuff in terms of minerals, and they are right next door to the largest consumer of it.”

This scenario has changed a bit. We’re positioned as neighbours of Russia and China, and we have a balanced economic interest in them both, so I think Mongolia’s sovereignty is secure. We’re living in a modern world where counties behave more or less in a civilized fashion towards one another, and we have very friendly relations with these two neighbours.

We don’t have any disputes – no border issues, no other political disputes with either Russia or China, so we’re in good shape. Now, what Mongolia should do is to sort out its direction in terms of how it’s going to develop the economy, what kind of society it’s going to be, and bring wealth to its people on the back of commodities.

It’s a unique country, and an important manifestation of that is that we’re the only one in the region with a true Western style democracy. It’s already seasoned, having been in place for over two decades at this point, with several peaceful transfers of power between competing and opposing political parties. The system is entrenched and it works. It’s not without its problems, but I think that in a country of 2.8 million this kind of democracy can work.

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Chris again. Jamul and I spoke for quite some time, so I’m going to spread this interview out over several days.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about China, and it’s likely role going forward. I think you’ll find Jamul’s perspective both intriguing and informative.

- Chris

“With Heaven’s aid I have conquered for you a huge empire. But my life was too short to achieve the conquest of the world. That task is left for you.”
- Chingis Khan, to his sons at the end of his life.

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