Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Jameel Ahmad showed optimism that academia would help improve financial literacy to not only for students but also to wider sections of society through innovative means. He pointed out that this is an area where regulators and academia can potentially partner and bridge the gap by working towards a common goal of inclusive growth. He was delivering his keynote address as the Chief Guest at the School of Business Studies (SBS), Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi at the inauguration of the Finance Lab.

It is to be noted that SBS in collaboration with Alpha Capital Securities (Pvt) Ltd has setup a Finance Lab at the Main Campus of IBA in line with its mission and as per Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation standards of providing quality education by offering innovative and technology-focused action learning opportunities.

The IBA was represented by Executive Director, Dr S Akbar Zaidi; Dean, School of Business Studies (SBS) Dr Abdullah Z Sheikh; Registrar, Dr Asad Ilyas; Chairperson Department of Finance SBS, Dr Sana Tauseef; and Assistant Prof and Head of Finance Lab, Dr Mohsin Sadaqat, Industry Partner and CEO Alpha Capital Securities, Mr Azfer Naseem, represented his respective organization. A large number of students and faculty members attended the event.

Governor SBP congratulated the management of IBA, Karachi, on this achievement and hoped the Lab would bridge the gap between industry and academia, and between theory and practice in the area of finance by providing students an opportunity to immerse themselves into real-world problems. He stressed the need for establishing and strengthening a formal collaboration mechanism between academia and industry, for designing courses and setting a research agenda, which serves the objectives of both businesses and academia. He suggested that trade organizations should play an instrumental role in providing a consultative platform as well as arranging funds to finance academic research, given their ability to identify key areas of research, and pool-in required resources.

The Governor SBP said that the Finance Lab should consider collaborating with related disciplines to conduct studies on business processes, market sizing and value chain assessments of various products from the perspective of growth and innovation. The Governor, SBP also suggested collaborating with credit bureaus to test and to create credit scoring models, especially those based on alternate data or otherwise aimed at the segment of individuals and businesses that have no collateral and little or no credit history. He said that the Finance Lab should also focus on increasing the awareness of individual savers across the country to understand the risks and returns associated with different avenues and increasing retail investments in government debt papers and corporate bonds.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Executive Director IBA Karachi, Dr Zaidi said the use of technology has revolutionized conventional financial education. He said the Finance Lab will play an instrumental role in inculcating financial literacy among the students, which is an integral component of the academic curriculum.

Dr Sheikh stated that the Finance Lab bridges the gap between theory and practice. He further added that the Finance Lab is useful for instructors to ensure active learning, demonstrating how theoretical knowledge is related to the real-world phenomenon and explaining the complex financial concepts through real world data. It also provides an opportunity for students to understand how classroom learning is applied in the industry, enhances data analysis skills, and deepens their understanding of financial knowledge.

Dr Ilyas briefed the audience about the Lab and said that the “IBA Finance Lab is a platform through which we can bridge the gap of fintech development between Pakistan and our neighbors. We need to realize our laggard status and commit to removing this distance. Without financial innovation Pakistan will never overcome its problems. This is the starting point and cuts through all other developments. Additionally, blockchain is a reality and a matter of time. It will disrupt every single industry and we need to be open to it rather than our reflexive resistance which comes with every new global innovation”.

Dr Sadaqat said that “Competency is what the industry desires. Finance Lab provides state of the art learning opportunities to students to enhance their competency level through the application of finance knowledge in real-world settings”.

Shedding light on the collaboration, Mr. Naseem said that Finance Lab is a wonderful initiative to bridge the gap between academia and industry and Alpha Capital is excited to partner with IBA in this initiative. It provides an opportunity for the students to apply the tools and concepts they learn in their curriculum to real life business problems”.

Dr Tauseef stated that the Finance Lab will provide the advantage of real-world learning experience to our business students. Analyzing critical financial data and undergoing financial simulations, in addition to the strong theoretical knowledge, will make our students more competitive in the job market.

To enhance students’ exposure, the Finance Lab plans to organize student competitions namely IBA-SBS Equity Research Challenge and IBA-SBS Trading Challenge. The theme of this challenge would be to select a listed company and give buy/sell recommendations for its stock. Students would be required to build a complete financial model and write an equity research report to be evaluated by industry experts. The winning team will receive a cash award of PKR 50,000 sponsored by Alpha Capital Securities and the runner ups will receive PKR 10,000 from IBA-SBS Finance Department. In IBA-SBS Trading Challenge, students will use virtual currency of PKR 1,000,000 for trading at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX), their performance will be evaluated by a panel of experts.

The event culminated with a ribbon cutting ceremony and the official inauguration of the Finance Lab.

Related: BARD announces Endowment Fund for an MBA student at IBA

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Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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