FCAC'S Judith Robertson's keynote address at the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada 'Mastering Money' Conference


November 7, 2019
Delta Hotel, Ottawa, ON

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Hello, and thank you for the lovely introduction, Joy (Thomas, Chartered Professional Accountants.)

It’s a pleasure to be invited to speak to you during this, our 9th annual Financial Literacy Month. 

Throughout November, we collaborate with organizations like yourselves 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.

As I have been recently appointed, this is my first experience seeing Financial Literacy Month (FLM) from the inside.  I can tell you that the intensity of the planning for all the activities is impressive and I can’t wait to see what creative ideas we come up with to celebrate the 10th anniversary next year.

I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Chartered Professionals Accountants (CPA) for their participation on our National Steering Committee and our National Research Committee. I commend you on your continued commitment.  

I’d also like to acknowledge and thank the 18 networks, representing more than 575 stakeholder organizations and individuals from across Canada, including the Financial Literacy Action Group, which was instrumental in establishing FLM.  

You and they are the unsung heroes who work hard year-round to strengthen financial literacy in our communities.

I found the theme of today’s event, “Building Resilience in Volatile Economies,” to be spot on and very timely. 

There is a clear connection between resilience and knowledge and a growing recognition that greater financial literacy can 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, and more resilient, 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 (FCAC) 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, through research and education to strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians, and empower them develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to make informed financial decisions 

We know the need for financial literacy has never been more pressing.

Recent surveys show that money has become the number one stressor for most Canadians.

Increasingly, the onus is being placed on individuals to make their own financial decisions and 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.  

Our research has shown that to be effective, financial literacy interventions need to be well-designed and narrowly targeted. 

To this end, we are 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.

Budgeting and having an emergency fund or savings can increase an individual’s ability to withstand a financial setback – in other words increase their resilience and improve their financial well-being. 

Our research also shows that many people who want to budget don’t know where to start.

So, to try and fill this gap, FCAC has been working on a new online tool called, Budget Planner, that significantly improves on the look and feel of our existing budget tool.  It was created in close collaboration with one of our research partners and imbeds behavioural insights like social norming, individual tailoring and rewards.

The Budget Planner will be made public on November 26. We are very excited to see the response to this tool so, look for the announcement.  I hope you try it out and give us your feedback.

Another aspect of our research shows that by targeting people at key moments in their lives (the right time), and “where they’re at” – for example, the workplace – financial literacy interventions are more likely to be successful. Our Director of Financial Literacy, Jérémie Ryan, will be presenting more details about our Financial Literacy in the Workplace initiative this afternoon.  This is another thing we are excited about and I think you will find it interesting.

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 and we will imbed rigorous and regular evaluations to ensure that they are, in fact, achieving their intended outcomes.

At the same time, we will continue to build on the strong foundation that has been laid, and to collaborate with stakeholders such as yourselves, to gain the benefit of your expertise and to extend our reach.

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 of Canadians.

I wish to congratulate all of you for your efforts this year, and every year. Your hard work as volunteers delivering CPA’s financial literacy sessions in communities and in the workplace is an inspiring example.  In particular, I commend you on your delivery of financial literacy to public service employees, through the Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace.

Again, thank you for your contributions and thank you for kind attention to my remarks.

Thank you, for your attention. I wish you a productive conference.

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