Speech given by Jason Bouzanis, Assistant Commissioner, Public Affairs — Financial Education Day of the Autorité des marchés financiers
May 25, 2023
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I am honoured to have this opportunity to speak to you in person, at an event hosted by such an important partner as the Autorité des marchés financiers.
The Autorité des marchés financiers and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada have collaborated on many projects over the years.
Camille Beaudoin has led much of that collaboration on behalf of the AMF.
Since I joined FCAC 3 years ago, I have come to know Mr. Beaudoin through our work together as members of the Financial Literacy Networks.
Thank you, Camille, for your wise counsel and your excellent contributions to advancing our shared goals.
I also want to acknowledge Lise Estelle Brault, Senior Director of Data, Fintech and Innovation at the Autorité des marchés financiers.
Ms. Brault is a member of the Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, which provides advice to the Commissioner in support of FCAC’s financial consumer protection mandate.
The mission of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is to protect consumers of financial products and services.
Here are some details for those who are less familiar with us.
We fulfill our mission in two ways.
First, we are a regulator.
We oversee federally regulated financial institutions – like banks – to ensure they meet their obligations to consumers.
Second, we strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians through research, programs, and educational activities – including developing tools and producing practical information.
At a time when Canadians are facing waves of economic pressure, it’s very important to protect financial consumers and contribute to their financial education.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, our Agency has run a monthly survey on the financial well-being of Canadians.
Based on the results,
Many Canadians are currently facing significant challenges.
For example, today:
- more Canadians are borrowing money to cover their expenses, compared with three years ago;
- fewer Canadians have emergency funds to cover unexpected expenses;
- and Canadians with mortgages are increasingly facing financial challenges.
National Financial Literacy Strategy and the ecosystem approach
We must therefore find new and better ways to help Canadians achieve positive financial outcomes.
And that is the vision behind the FCAC’s National Financial Literacy Strategy.
The goal of the Strategy is to help Canadians build financial resilience.
Launched in 2021, this National Strategy emphasizes that building financial resilience does not lie in the hands of the consumer alone.
The financial ecosystem has a major role to play.
The financial ecosystem includes community groups, educators, researchers, the financial sector, the government, regulators and many other stakeholders.
The people here today represent the current financial ecosystem.
The National Financial Literacy Strategy calls for us to work together, to build a more inclusive, more accessible and more effective financial ecosystem that benefits all Canadians.
The National Strategy highlights a set of actions that the entire financial ecosystem can take to help people build financial resilience.
These actions include reducing barriers in the financial system.
These barriers sometimes prevent consumers from accessing products and services, to understand them or use them or to benefit from support that could be useful to them.
Information about financial products and services is sometimes difficult to understand because of the jargon used.
I think we can all agree that even those of us who consider ourselves to have good financial literacy. sometimes have difficulty understanding the terms used by banks.
And even when there are no barriers, consumers might not always be able to make the right financial decisions at the right time.
So it’s important to take action to empower consumers to make financial decisions that are appropriate to their situation.
For example, we should increase access to reliable and timely financial advice.
This is important because everyone needs advice from time to time.
However, most Canadians don't know where, or how, to find the advice they need.
The National Strategy also focuses on the skills, capacity and behaviours that are key to financial resilience.
- the skills to navigate the financial marketplace,
- "just-in-time" financial knowledge, and
- the ability to manage expenses, debt and savings
You may have noticed similarities between the financial education work done by the AMF and FCAC’s National Financial Literacy Strategy.
For example, the AMF has identified applied financial literacy as one of the pillars for its Strategic Financial Education, Outreach and Research Partnerships Program for 2023.
This approach complements the National Strategy’s priority on the importance of helping Canadians build “just-in-time" financial knowledge and confidence.
This leads us naturally to this question:
How will we track our collective progress as an ecosystem?
The National Strategy sets out measurable targets to achieve its outcomes.
Last November, our Agency released the Measurement Plan for the National Strategy.
The Measurement Plan provides the tools to gather measures and results
and also to assess the impact of our collective efforts.
This is important because it is only through measuring outcomes that we can we verify that what we are doing is working to improve the financial lives of Canadians.
So we can scale up actions that work, and adjust or stop those that don't.
Measurements work best when we all speak the same language.
If different researchers and organizations have different ways of defining and measuring concepts like "access to financial services" or "financial literacy", we can't compare the results.
The Measurement Plan is designed to ensure that the financial ecosystem uses the same language and measures results in a relevant way that is easy to understand and to communicate.
We already have 19 organizations using the Measurement Plan.
For those of you who work in the field of financial literacy, I encourage you to read this Measurement Plan and to contact us for more information.
Underpinning the National Financial Literacy Strategy are an evidence and research-based approach, and collaboration.
I would like to give you some examples of Agency research projects that illustrate the theme of this conference – "Resolutely Focused on the Future".
Our partnership with ChatterHigh exemplifies the evolution of financial education in the age of digital transformation.
Our partnership may be of interest to educators and teachers who are with us here today.
In collaboration with ChatterHigh – which is a school-oriented technology company – we are running a project focused on youth (in particular girls) in grades 6 to 12; it is designed as a virtual scavenger hunt.
This project aims to strengthen their knowledge, their trust and their financial skills.
To date, the results show that, by the end of the program, students felt more confident in managing their finances. They were also more inclined to use a budget.
FCAC also monitors trends and emerging issues that may impact consumers of financial products.
Next week we will publish a report on Canadians’ knowledge and understanding of open banking.
Open banking – which does not yet exist in Canada – is a secure way for consumers to share their financial data with third-party services, like budget management apps.
Here is a preview of the report's findings:
For Canadians to understand and be interested in open banking, it will be necessary to put in place strong and consistent protection measures, and education.
Financial Consumer Protection Framework
Strengthening protections for financial consumers is also an essential step to help and support Canadians.
Last year, Canada's new Financial Consumer Protection Framework came into force.
This framework, which includes more than sixty new or strengthened measures, is an important step forward for consumer protection in Canada.
- Banks need to evolve their business practices to meet higher standards.
- They must offer their customers products and services that suit the consumers’ needs.
- Banks also need to adapt their procedures to resolve complaints more quickly.
- Banks also need to provide their customers with more information to help them make timely decisions.
- A good example is the new email alerts we receive when our account balance or available credit is low.
The Framework is an important development that makes the financial sector more accountable for the sound financial management of its clients.
In other words, the Framework and the National Strategy are therefore complementary:
They both put greater responsibility on the financial ecosystem, and both recognize that positive financial results are a shared obligation.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that I, and my FCAC colleagues, are very grateful for the work you do to educate financial consumers.
I hope the information I have shared with you today will be of benefit.
Helping Canadians manage their finances during these challenging times, and times of rapid change is an immense challenge and a lot remains to be done...
I would like to thank each and every one of you – as well as the organizations you represent – for your contribution in this regard.
On this 10th annual AMF Financial Education Day,
I am grateful for all that you have accomplished so far.
And I am confident that together, we will continue to make considerable progress in the future.
Your commitment to building a financial ecosystem that is more inclusive, more accessible and more effective – for all Quebecers and all Canadians – is so very important.
By working together, we Make Change that Counts.
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