ISLAMABAD - Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Chairman Aamir Khan has said that the launch of EMLAAK Financials, the country’s first mutual fund market place, is a major stride towards expanding investor outreach, and improving customer experience.

The SECP chairman was addressing to the launch ceremony of Emlaak Financials held at the CDC House, said a press release issued here. Emlaak Financials is Pakistan’s first investment platform allowing digital account opening and online investments in different mutual funds with centralized tracking. This digital platform will facilitate investors in making informed decisions by providing a convenient, consolidated and interactive dashboard of investments empowering them to invest with convenience without having to physically visit the AMCs.

Aamir Khan said the SECP has been implementing a series of reforms focusing at improving the weak linkage between the capital markets and the real economy of the country, reducing excessive regulatory layers and high costs of compliance, improving the access to private capital for large projects, and a less than perfect role in expanding financial inclusion. It was evident that along with regulatory reform, Khan said, embracing digitalisation was a critical enabler for moving forward.

Accordingly, SECP initiated an internal digitalisation transformation program, Leading Efficiency through Automated Prowess (LEAP), and simultaneously encouraging its regulated sectors to accelerate the use of technology within their operational and business areas. Through careful planning, meticulous execution and overwhelming support of our regulated sectors and market infrastructure institutions like CDC, we have been able to achieve phenomenal successes.

Firstly, the SECP has introduced digital incorporation certificates, digital certified true copies and an exclusive portal for banks to get information on their corporate clients directly from SECP. The SECP have witnessed a significant jump in new incorporations, he said and added that out of the total registered companies in Pakistan, 40% have been incorporated in the past 3 years. Additionally, as a consequence, we printed 348,500 less papers in FY - 2022 as compared to 2020, saving 43 trees.

Secondly, Aamir told participants, SECP has also introduced digital account opening and onboarding of investors in stock market and mutual funds, e-IPO process for both equity and debt issues and linkage with Roshan Digital Account were enabled. As a result, number of investors saw a 11% growth in FY 2021 and 6% growth in FY 2022. During the last IPO, 85% of retail investment was done through eIPO.

Thirdly, the SECP established Secured Transactions Registry that has led to the registration of 109,779 charges on moveable assets of micro enterprises and individuals within 2 years, thereby providing them access to financing.

In addition, digitally enabled lending platforms have disbursed over 33b of nano loans to more than 2.5m individual borrowers in FY-2022 alone.

Fourthly, we introduced the concept of Regulatory Sandbox to spur innovation in SECP’s regulated sectors, which has facilitated testing of solutions related to blockchain-use cases for capital markets, digital identity/AML/KYC solutions, and digitally-enabled peer-to-peer lending. Finally, Khan said, SECP has been able to develop regulatory frameworks for online only brokers, digital insurance companies as well as enabling a digital regulatory environment for the asset management industry encompassing digital investment advisors, digital trustee and digital asset management companies.

It is because of this change in the regulatory approach towards use of technology that SECP has issued 64 new licenses in the NBFC space during last three years, 6 exchange traded funds have been launched in the last 18 months for the first time in the country, 9 new REITs schemes have been approved by the Commission in the last 12 months, and more than 400 agri-commodities related electronic warehouse receipts have been issued in the last 2 years.

The chairman SECP said that the mutual fund industry has grown by a CAGR of 28% over the last 3 years, to 1.2 trillion rupees. However, this constitutes 2% of GDP as against regional figures of 15%- 27%. Likewise, the number of investors at a meagre 324,000, and Pakistan’s saving rate at 7% of GDP is significantly below that of other emerging economies. It is in this backdrop that it was felt that the traditional distribution model was not expanding the outreach of capital markets. The launch of EMLAAK platform, as the country’s first digital distribution and aggregator platform is a major stride towards expanding investor outreach, and improving customer experience. This digital platform will facilitate investors in making informed decisions by providing a convenient, consolidated and interactive dashboard of investments empowering them to invest with convenience without having to physically visit the AMCs.

CDC is also separately working on launching a capital market gateway portal that will provide a single-entry point to all new investors in the capital markets by providing basic KYC and onboarding support to all our regulated sectors within the capital market domain. Accordingly, I have high hopes from this platform, and those that follow, in playing a catalytic role in expanding the investor base in the mutual fund industry, as well as broader capital market. Here, I will also urge all AMCs to extend full support to digital onboarding platforms, such as EMLAAK, not just to include new investors but also your existing investors. This will facilitate a complete investing journey through digital modes within a transparent and competitive ecosystem; please focus on growing the pie, and not only on holding onto your specific shares.