Be Confident and Take a Seat at the Table

March 6, 2024
Munkhtuya Rentsenbat, CEO of Khan Bank Munkhtuya Rentsenbat, CEO of Khan Bank, believes in seizing opportunities to learn and grow. Photo: Munkhtuya Rentsenbat.

From a junior accountant to the CEO of Khan Bank, Mongolia’s largest bank, Munkhtuya Rentsenbat believes in seizing opportunities to learn and grow. Under her leadership, Khan Bank has made a successful IPO and gone public while also leading the market with its profitability and sustainable development efforts. In a candid chat with IFC, she shares why new mothers or those responsible for childcare in Mongolia need more support at workplaces to move up to leadership positions. Celebrating International Women's Day 2024, this is the second of a series of conversations with women who are leading the sustainability agenda in Mongolia.

What did it take to become the CEO of Mongolia's largest bank? What dreams did you have when you first started out at the bank 24 years ago?

In 2000, when I joined Khan Bank, I worked at a countryside branch. I was promoted to the position of senior accountant at headquarters after I won a professional competition in Ulaanbaatar. Back then, the thought of becoming a CEO didn't even cross my mind. However, I wanted to achieve greater things in my career, which is why I always seized opportunities to learn and evolve. This helped me to progress. While I put in my share of effort, I was lucky to be working in an organization where the senior leadership—from across generations—provided growth opportunities to all employees regardless of their experience. Today, I try to play the same role and provide similar opportunities to our employees for their career growth.  

Why is sustainability important to you, and could you highlight your most significant work in this area? 
Climate change is no longer a distant reality. Last summer, Mongolia experienced large scale flooding while this winter has been unusually harsh, indicating the tangible impacts of climate change. As a leading company in the country, we take our responsibilities seriously. In 2018, we formed a Sustainable Development Working Group to follow global best practices and understand the key areas that financial institutions should focus on. We are a member of the UN Global Compact and in 2020, Khan Bank also adopted a Sustainable Development Policy.  

Leading these efforts, I recognized the importance of aligning sustainable development with the organization's vision and long-term objectives. Over the past three years, we have worked to ensure the Sustainable Development Policy is integrated into all internal regulations and daily operations of the bank. This effort led to the establishment of a dedicated Sustainable Development Department. We prioritize establishing a green economy, funding environmentally friendly initiatives, and backing businesses that contribute to mitigating climate change. Additionally, we engage in social responsibility efforts aimed at raising awareness among organizations, businesses, and the public about the importance of sustainable development.


Munkhtuya Rentsenbat, CEO of Khan Bank. Munkhtuya Rentsenbat, CEO of Khan Bank. Photo: Munkhtuya Rentsenbat.


Do you face any challenges as a woman in a leadership position? If yes, how do you overcome them? 

Gender equality is relatively well established across the country’s financial sector. However, at the middle and upper management levels, the gender ratio is skewed with women having to go on maternity leave. It takes around 5-10 years to move up to an initial managerial position. Now, if a woman has two to three children, then it impacts her career course significantly. Given that Mongolian families typically have two to three children, it creates a noticeable disparity in career growth between men and women. 

To narrow this gap, we provide support to our employees who are mothers or are responsible for childcare, with human resource policies including flexible schedules and work-from-home options. Additionally, our online training platform (KB Academy) helps all our employees keep pace with the latest financial and technological trends. Personally, I have worked hard to keep learning while being aware of the challenges. Fortunately, my husband, a peer since our university days, is in the same profession, which helps tremendously. An empathetic person, he has shown unwavering support and has been a pillar of strength. 

What is your advice to women who are just starting out or are in the middle of their careers? 

Be confident and take a seat at the table. When you believe in yourself, others will believe in you. As women, we often tend to perceive ourselves as unqualified if we have 51 percent knowledge of something. While this may be an exaggeration, men are usually fine with this level of understanding. We women typically want to have at least 80-90 percent of the knowledge required. Personally, I can relate to this sentiment. If you identify this tendency, work hard to catch up as quickly as possible. Do not wait for others to understand and support you. Instead, learn to motivate yourself. 

Did you have a mentor who influenced you? If yes, how? 

I was fortunate to work under the leadership of  the late J. Peter Morrow, the former CEO of Khan Bank. Under his guidance, I learned how to make sound decisions based on meticulous analysis of assessments and reports. A good understanding of the issue at hand is the first step in effective decision-making. You must grasp the situation and identify the challenges. Next, define your objectives and the desired outcomes. Then evaluate the timelines required to achieve them, considering both short and medium-term plans for longer journeys. Be ready to take immediate action to tackle time-sensitive challenges. Regardless, prompt decision-making is essential, delaying may cause a situation to evolve. Once decided, stand by your chosen course of action. 

Looking ahead, what do you hope to achieve in the coming years?

It's essential for us to collectively pursue sustainable development and a green economy. We can make significant progress when we collaborate. In an example, the Mongolian Sustainable Finance Association, formed through the joint participation and initiatives of banks, has been operational for five years. In 2024, Khan Bank assumed the role of “Leading bank”, and I am the Chairman of the Board of Directors. I hope to continue collaborating with fellow financial institutions, fostering a green economy and delivering sustainable financing for Mongolia’s future resilience.