Carolyn Clarke: I feel really proud of what we have achieved so far at PwC, particularly the commitment and enthusiasm of my staff

By Allyson Seaborn

When PwC decided to open an office in Mongolia, they conducted a worldwide search to find a partner to manage the office. Attracting individuals to what is perceived to be a “challenging environment,” was one problem. Attracting someone who could ensure that the office evolved in a way that was sympathetic to Mongolian culture while at the same time focusing on staff development proved to be more difficult. The fact that Carolyn Clarke had had prior experience in Mongolia and a wide ranging career was the key to her success in landing her partnership role.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (trading as PwC) is of course, a global professional services firm. It’s the world’s largest professional services firm and the largest of the “Big Four” accountancy firms measured by 2011 revenues. PwC has offices in 771 cities across 158 countries and employs over 169,000 people.
Clarke grew up in Birmingham in the UK and studied at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne where she completed a BA in Accounting and Financial Analysis. She’s now a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales. As Managing Partner of PwC in Ulaanbaatar, a youthful Clarke has reached the pinnacle of her international career. She tells me, “We have grown organically, attracting the most prestigious companies and organisations in Mongolia as clients as a result of our commitment to always adhering to international standards. Our brand is based on our people and our primary aim is to develop a cadre of young professionals who will be the future leaders of Mongolia, whilst attracting new investment and interest to the country through our international credibility. We are proud to be the leading firm and to bring our enthusiasm and desire to do the right thing to our clients.”
For PwC the next year is about consolidation and about seeking to support the government and private sector in a wide range of areas. Clarke proudly boasts, “We are known for our expertise in audit and tax where we are the market leaders. However, PwC globally can bring the widest range of experts to advise in many more areas and we need to get this message across. Amongst our areas of focus are supporting the junior miners and mining supply companies, assisting in developing the banking and financial services sector, and advising on the financial aspects and processes related to the infrastructure needs.”
I ask her what her priority is and she states, “We will continue to put quality first – anyone who receives an opinion or advice from PwC in Mongolia can be assured that it is consistent with any developed country. And we will continue to invest in our people and their development.”
We discuss her first week on the job; she’s lighthearted and enthusiastically responds, “I arrived in late 2010 so have been working here now for 2 years. I missed the opening party so have had to work to ensure that subsequent parties are even better! We had our second year anniversary reception at the Museum of Modern Art last Monday, attended by over 300 people which I think is a bit of a record in UB.”

Q&A Time

-Describe your first visit to Mongolia
-I arrived in 2001 on 1st April (April fool’s day in the UK) after a delay of 2 days whilst MIAT found a plane that could actually fly as they only had one just about operational plane at the time, to a snow blizzard that lasted at least a week. We camped out in Terelj in overnight temperatures below -20. It was a real introduction to everything Mongolia can throw at you!
It was then straight down to the Gobi for the most amazing 3 months taking young people on treks across the desert – more than 150km each time carrying everything we needed. The young people were spending most of their time doing conservation and community projects (with Raleigh International) so this was their adventure phase and was designed to really push them to their limits.
I feel a real affinity for the Gobi and the Mongolian people having lived a real nomadic lifestyle for a few months: Five years later I returned and was still able to guide my driver on the quick route through the desert! I was impressed by the strength and the survival instinct of everyone I met, and the ability of Mongolians to smile through the toughest conditions. It made it a natural decision to come back 10 years later.
-What is the best thing about living in Mongolia?
-On a professional level the sheer excitement of playing a small part in the development of a country and economy at this unique point in time. I feel really proud of what we have achieved so far at PwC, particularly the commitment and enthusiasm of my staff. For the family, the great outdoors and spending time in the Mongolian countryside.
-How has UB changed over the years?
-Ten years ago there were animals on the square, international calls could only be made at the post office and there was one place to access the internet (in a building located where Central Tower now is – strange to think I am working there 10 years later). More importantly UB has woken up to the opportunities of a country emerging as a middle income economy – the vibrancy is tangible, even whilst retaining the unique aspects that are Mongolian.
-Describe a perfect weekend in Mongolia.
-It has to involve getting out into the countryside with the children and with friends, either staying at a lodge or ger camp, or simply for a picnic. We bought a Land Cruiser last year and its fantastic to use it as it was designed, cross country to reach areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. A glass of wine or 2 at home, or with friends, would also play a part, and we usually start the weekend with a drink at the Steppe Inn, connected to the British Embassy.
-What’s your advice to UB newcomers?
-Relax and give yourself time to get accustomed to the city. It’s very much a word-of-mouth place so it can be hard for people when they first arrive, and the climate can make it feel less hospitable. I remember the tears in the first few weeks all too well. But there are lots of networks and opportunities to meet people so reach out and you will find people share a common sense of adventure.
-Is there anything you can’t live without in UB?
-Family of course, and friends (and Facebook as a means of communicating with them so my husband says!) UB is a place where you can have a fantastic time, but it takes a little more effort and people to enjoy it with.
-Have you managed to learn any Mongolian?
-Unfortunately not – I still intend to but the working environment is so intense, and with two small children I really struggle to find time for anything else. I have been trying to get more exercise but even that is difficult.
-What’s your favourite UB restaurant/s?
-Rosewood café is certainly the best spot for breakfast or lunch and I think the most consistent, yet not too expensive, restaurants are Verandah and the French Bistro for dinner.
-What’s your favourite pastime or something you like to do to relax?
-I relax with my family and friends. There is nothing like my children laughing to put things into perspective. I enjoy running and exercise but get far too little time and opportunity in Mongolia currently, although we do get out walking at the weekends. And, you will find Roger and I frequenting various bars and restaurants!
-Picture Ulaanbaatar 20 years from now and tell me what you see.
-That’s a difficult one. I would like to see a city that has retained its identify but is prosperous in an inclusive way, bringing the poorest people as well as the wealthy with it. Hopefully solutions will have been found to the pollution and traffic issues particularly as these are probably the most noticeable challenges currently. It’s a very positive outlook.
-What is your favourite Mongolian food and why?
-We go to the Nomads chain whenever we have visitors in town and I like the “Vitals.” My husband thinks I am crazy!
-Who inspires you?
-Answering this currently it’s got to be any number of the Olympic athletes. We have been incredibly lucky to be in London for the games and to attend a number of events. It’s a fantastic time to be British and I am very proud of how the country has risen to the challenge of organizing such a fantastic games. The GB team has outperformed in every respect. I am particularly inspired by individuals who have suffered setbacks, but have continued to persevere to achieve their dreams. I was also lucky enough to attend the boxing with many Mongolians – they certainly won the medal for the most vocal support that evening!
-What was the last book you read?
-I would like to say something intellectual, but it was probably a historical novel as I find them relaxing and they take you into a different era. I love watching period drama films as well.
-Do you have a favourite quote or motto to live by?
-To live life to the full and seize every opportunity.
-If you could have dinner with five people who would they be?
-Senator Hilary Clinton – I was a speaker at the International Women’s Forum in June and was in the audience when she spoke – I would love to see her relaxed and really speaking her mind!
Bradley Wiggins – Tour de France and Olympics winner – and a generally good bloke by all accounts!
Winston Churchill – I suspect he would have plenty to say about the world and the current problems
Queen Elizabeth I – A remarkable women of her time and I am fascinated by history
Boris Johnson – Mayor of London – I think he would probably create controversy!


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