Only for the Heartiest of Bankers

Bankers "in transition" are advised to look beyond their own hometowns for job opportunities. So, how does working in Mongolia strike you? Or Swaziland? Or maybe even the Tonga Islands?

There are some real opportunities for financial experts in these areas, though the pay's not great. In fact, there's no real pay at all.

The jobs are volunteer positions with the U.S. Peace Corp.s And despite the remoteness, lack of pay, and paucity of native English speakers, bankers are definitely interested in the idea of working in Mongolia.

"I spent half the day on the phone talking to bankers," said Kimberly A. Rowe, manager of the Peace Corp's volunteer partner program, after a public-service classified ad ran in this newspaper in September.

Outer and Inner Aspects

The ad called for a specialist in the information systems used for international banking, to work for the state bank of Mongolia. The country needs help in turning its antiquated system into a modern financial network.

"I got over 40 phone calls, which still came in a week and a half after the ad ran. Friends were faxing the ad to each other," Ms. Rowe said.

A banker in search of such adventure and isolation - Mongolia is described as the world's most closed-off country in the 20th century - has to commit at least three months. The norm, though, is one year on the job.

Shifting in Midcareer

The Peace Corp's volunteer partner program is designed for midcareer professionals with specific skills. It requires a much shorter commitment of time than the traditional two years.

Such specialists are expected to hit the ground running, Ms. Rowe said, though they do receive 10 weeks of cross-cultural training and language instruction.

"When I first saw the ad, I thought it was a joke," said one candidate, a computer specialist working for a foreign bank on the West Coast. "I had to look at a globe to find out where Mongolia is."

Globe-Trotting Opportunity

But this banker, unmarried and in his 40s, sees the job as a chance to go someplace exotic, as well as to make an impact. "The country is so far behind," he said, "that anything you do will be a 100% improvement."

If he is accepted for the post, he hopes his bank will grant him a leave of absence. "It's like community service on a global scale," he said.

The Peace Corps pays for round-trip transportation, health and life insurance, health care, in-country living allowance, and a small "readjustment" allowance paid when volunteers complete their tour of duty.

The person who lands this job should have a real pioneering spirit. Mongolia, an emerging democracy, has had no exposure to Westerners in the past century; 35% of the residents of Ulaan Baatar, the capital, live in tents; there are no English-language publications or television, though Voice of America and BBC radio can be picked up.

If you're fluent in Turkish, you should have no problem with learning Mongolian, which is quite similar.

Regarding the banking system: |They're still using handwritten ledgers, as far as I can tell," Ms. Rowe said.

Slavic Alphabet Soup

As for the specifics of the job, the volunteer will be involved in:

* Implementing the AS/400 mainframe information system banking information system (IBIS) software.

* Analyzing, modifying, and testing the new system.

* Assisting with programming the Mongolian Cyrillic system in AS/400.

* Training.

Quest for Long-Term Capital

If Swaziland sounds more to your liking, the Peace Corps is also looking for a banker with strong accounting skills to improve the accounting system of the Swaziland Development and Savings Bank. The job calls for someone to:

* Develop accounting procedures and integrate them with a new computer system.

* Prepare an instruction manual.

* Train staff.

* Assess cost effectiveness of fees the bank charges.

* Explore ways to raise long-term capital.

The Tonga Islands also have volunteer opportunities, but they have not yet been finalized.

Bankers contemplating the lure of such exotic lands should also consider the downside. "You might be branded as history if you're out of the flow of business in a third tier, outer-limits country," says T. Lee Pomeroy of the recruiting firm Egon Zehnder International.

Such experience might be great for personal development or if you are unemployed or underemployed or if you want to redirect your career to, say, Third World banking. "But, I don't see it as a plus to a traditional banking career," he says.

PHOTO : HELP WANTED: Bankers fro the Peace Corps Source: Thomson Bank Directory

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