The Annual Excellence Awards held by the CFA Society Pakistan entered their sixteenth year in 2019. The Awards are the gold standard for Pakistan's capital markets industry and continue to evolve, with this year seeing the introduction of the Best Research Report Award for the first time. Interest in the Awards was demonstrated by the presence of senior management from notable companies, particularly the Presidents & CEOs of several banks.

The event was graced by SBP Governor, Dr. Reza Baqir as the Chief Guest who provided his thoughts on how expectations around the economy have improved over the last 3-6 months. Specifically, Dr. Baqir focused on the exchange rate, which initially saw a lot of consternation as it moved to a market-based mechanism but those fears have since been unfounded and confidence is returning. This is reflecting in an improvement on the exports side, where the SBP has promoted the Exports Refinance Scheme and the Long Term Finance Facility over the last year. Dr. Baqir also mentioned that raising interest rates is never pleasant but this is necessary to control inflation, which should begin to depict improvement from the second half of FY20. As overall sentiment and expectations around the economy improves further, it can trigger an improvement in the real economy, and this can happen sooner rather than later. The Governor also took the time to talk about digital payments and the Fintech sphere, which can promote growth and improve financial inclusion including, importantly, for women. The Governor's speech was followed by a Q&A session with the audience, curated by Muhammad Asim, the President of the CFA Society Pakistan. The questions from the audience understandably centered on interest and exchange rates, but also touched upon the FATF deliberations and efforts to attract foreign flows into the debt markets. On FATF, the Governor stated that there has been a significant increase in the pace of addressing identified areas, and this has encouragingly been recognized by key stakeholders. At the end, the Governor congratulated the award recipients for playing their part in the efforts to improve Pakistan's financial system.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019