Judith Robertson, Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, Launches Financial Literacy Month 2019

Speech

November 1, 2019
Bank of Canada Museum, Ottawa, Ontario

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Hello, and thank you for the wonderful introduction. I would like to thank the Bank of Canada Museum for inviting me today. 

To the delegates of the International Federation of Finance Museums Meeting, I promise you a warm welcome here, in Ottawa, despite the cold weather.

As you are no doubt aware, today is the first day of our Annual Financial Literacy Month.  This year marks its 9th anniversary.   

Throughout November, we collaborate with organizations from across the country to increase awareness, host events and share resources aimed at helping Canadians ‘Take Charge of their Finances’ – which is our theme for this year’s campaign.

I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the 18 networks across Canada, representing more than 575 stakeholder organizations and individuals, including the Financial Literacy Action Group, which was instrumental in establishing FLM.  These are our big supporters, who work hard year-round to strengthen financial literacy in their communities.

I am pleased that we have the benefit of this occasion for the launch of this year’s campaign.  

I couldn’t think of a more fitting group to address, given the focus on education and financial literacy of the IFFM and its member organizations.  I thank you for your continued interest in this area.  

You may be interested to know that I have a small personal connection with the Bank of Canada Museum.  One of the early contributors to your collection, Douglas Ferguson, was my great uncle.  I have a very vivid memory of visiting his home in Stanstead as a young child and being shown his collection which was housed in a magnificent, floor to ceiling wooden cabinet with each of the hundreds of drawers holding an individual treasure.  He even gave me a shinplaster as a souvenir, which I still have. And now here I am addressing you – Don’t you think this demonstrates the potential impact of a memorable educational experience?

As you have no doubt seen in your own jurisdictions, there is a growing recognition around the world that greater financial literacy can help contribute not only to the financial well-being of individuals, but also to stronger and more resilient economies as a whole.

We know that informed consumers are better-protected consumers. With better understanding of financial products and services, consumers are more confident, they make better decisions and they are less likely to be taken advantage of.  

So, our collective work in financial literacy has a measurable impact on the safety and security of our respective financial systems.

Our mandate at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is to protect consumers of financial products and services.

We do this in two ways:

First, as a regulator which oversees the market conduct of banks and other federally-regulated financial entities.

Second, we conduct research and education to strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians, which means, helping them develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to make informed financial decisions 

Increasingly, the onus is being placed on individuals to manage their own financial futures. 

This is a big responsibility as the financial marketplace grows ever more complex with new players, complicated products and digital technologies. We cannot expect consumers to be experts at everything. 

Consumers need access to trustworthy, unbiased sources of information at the right time, in the right place, and in the right form. 

They need enough knowledge to feel empowered to ask the right questions, and to recognize when they need to ask for help.  

Over time, we have come to appreciate that financial education must not only strengthen consumers’ knowledge, but also their confidence in managing their money.

Our research has shown that to be effective, financial literacy interventions need to be well-designed and narrowly targeted. Programs need to imbed rigorous and regular evaluations to ensure that they are, in fact, achieving their intended outcomes.

To this end, our research is starting to coalesce around the idea of focusing financial education on a few key behavioural changes.

Multiple studies indicate that budgeting and saving are behaviours that can significantly improve people’s financial well-being and confidence, even when adjusting for the more obvious economic factors, like income levels.

In a few minutes, you will hear from our Director of Financial Literacy, Jérémie Ryan, who will provide more details on our targeted efforts, and how we have mobilized and engaged stakeholders across the country. 

Later today, Rebecca Kong our Senior Research and Policy Officer will speak to the results of our financial wellbeing survey.

I think you will find both presentations very interesting.

We are fortunate here in Canada to count on the support of many stakeholders from the private, not-for-profit and public sectors. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to strengthening the financial literacy.

FLM is an opportunity to work together to advance our common goals. 

It’s through collaboration that we can expand our reach and improve our outcomes.

The Bank of Canada and this museum have been key collaborators in our efforts over the years and we appreciate their support. 

We have made significant progress to advance Financial Literacy in Canada, but now is the time to ensure that all of our programs and initiatives are having a real impact.  

Going forward, you will see us sharpen our focus in a few key areas where we think we can make a real difference. 

At the same time, we will continue to build on the strong foundation that has been laid, and to collaborate with stakeholders here in Canada and with our international counterparts, such as yourselves, to strengthen the financial well-being of all consumers.

Thank you for your attention, and I wish you an enriching conference.


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