Student competition guidelines for the 2024 Building Better Financial Futures Challenge

About FCAC

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) was established in 2001 to protect the rights and interests of consumers of financial products and services.

Our mandate 

FCAC’s mandate is to supervise federally regulated financial entities and strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians. 

The National Financial Literacy Strategy

In 2021, FCAC renewed the National Financial Literacy Strategy ― Make Change that Counts with the objective of helping Canadians build financial resilience in an increasingly digital world. 

The National Strategy is a 5-year plan to create a more accessible, inclusive, and effective financial ecosystem that supports diverse Canadians in meaningful ways by providing guidance on how financial literacy stakeholders can reduce barriers, catalyze actions, and work together to help Canadians build financial resilience.

Logic model, see text version below.
Text version: Logic model

Ecosystem changes

Reduce barriers

  • Communicate in ways people understand
  • Build and provide for diverse needs
  • Support increased digital access and digital literacy

Catalyze actions

  • Enhance access to trustworthy and affordable financial help
  • Use behavioural design to simplify financial decisions
  • Strengthen consumer protection measures

Enable consumers to achieve financial resilience

  • Skills: Navigate the financial marketplace
  • Capacity: Build just-in-time financial knowledge and confidence
  • Behaviours: Manage expenses, debt, and savings

Changes to the financial literacy ecosystem are supported by evidence-based research and collaboration.

Evidence-based research

  • Identify and understand gaps, needs, contexts, and behavioural outcomes
  • User-test and evaluate effectiveness of interventions across different audiences
  • Iteratively improve consumer experience and outcomes


  • Drive greater use of evidence-based approaches and common agreement on concepts, methods, and standards for research
  • Deliver or scale programming and amplify impact
  • Share insights, resources, and best practices

The challenge

For the Student Competition, participants are asked to select one of the three priorities under the theme “Catalyze Action” to be the focus of their paper (Priorities 4 to 6 in the overarching ecosystem): 

Students will then conduct research and write a report to:

  1. Examine and synthesize existing research related to the selected priority
  2. Identify an actionable solution that addresses the selected priority and achieves one of the priority’s target outcomes (see Table 1)
  3. Provide a description of how they would build evidence-based support for the proposed solution (e.g., by outlining how they would use an experimental design, a pilot intervention, or other validated research methods to test the solution in the future), as well as how they would measure the efficacy of their proposed solution at achieving the intended target outcome 

Undergraduate and Graduate students are invited to enter this Competition, and one successful submission will be selected from each of the undergraduate and graduate categories.

The ideal paper will include the following elements: 

*Note: If an existing solution from another country, or an existing smaller-scale solution from somewhere in Canada is identified, students can propose how to adapt it and/or scale it up for broader use by Canadians.

Table 1. The ecosystem priorities under the theme “Catalyze Action” (priorities 4 to 6 in the overarching ecosystem) and their associated target outcomes:

Ecosystem Priority 4: Enhance Access to Trustworthy and Affordable Financial Help

The aim of this priority is to enhance access to trustworthy and affordable financial help services, particularly for vulnerable Canadians. It has the following 3 targets:

Target Outcome 1:

More Canadians have access to, and use, relevant and unbiased financial advice that is affordable.

Target Outcome 2:

More Canadians who access relevant and unbiased financial advice experience positive financial outcomes.

Target Outcome 3:

Fewer Canadians receive financial advice that is inappropriate for their circumstances and financial needs.

Ecosystem Priority 5: Use Behavioural Design to Simplify Financial Decisions

The aim of this priority is to encourage ecosystem stakeholders to design and present information in ways that facilitate and motivate consumer financial decisions and practices that are beneficial for the consumer.

Target Outcome 1:

More ecosystem stakeholders use behavioural insights and design research to test and deploy consumer-facing materials that demonstrably help Canadians make financial decisions that will lead to positive financial outcomes.

Target Outcome 2:

More Canadians use tools that use behavioural insights in the design and presentation of financial decisions to facilitate and motivate choices leading to better outcomes.

Target Outcome 3:

Fewer Canadians purchase or use financial products and services that are not in their own best interest due to the misuse of behavioural design elements.

Ecosystem Priority 6: Strengthen Consumer Protection Measures

The aim of this priority is to encourage stakeholders to strengthen and adapt consumer protection measures with a view to improving consumer outcomes in an increasingly digital financial marketplace.

Target Outcome 1:

More stakeholders in the financial services industry adopt concrete measures to prioritize financial consumer protection and the fair treatment of consumers, including the protection of consumer data, selling appropriate products and services, and effective complaint resolution.

Target Outcome 2:

More Canadians benefit from an appropriate level of consumer protection and market conduct standards whether they deal with new or existing providers of digital products, services, or practices.

Target Outcome 3:

More Canadians understand their rights and responsibilities when dealing with the financial services industry, and how and where to seek resolution when they experience a problem.

Students can choose to write about any of the three ecosystem priorities under the theme “Catalyze Action”. However, to help illustrate the challenge, here are some examples of research questions they could choose to answer: 

Vulnerable populations are at higher risk of experiencing significant financial challenges. While relevant and unbiased financial advice is accessible to those who can afford it, there are limited options for vulnerable populations to receive low cost or free financial advice. Moreover, even when affordable financial help is available to these groups, stakeholders report that these services are often not well known or used. In the absence of affordable and trustworthy financial advice, Canadians are at risk of making poor financial decisions (such as turning to high-cost alternative lenders) that could lead to further negative outcomes.  Therefore, it is important to enhance access to trustworthy and affordable financial help for vulnerable Canadians (ecosystem priority). What is an action that could be taken to increase access to affordable financial advice for Canadians with vulnerabilities?  What solution would you propose to catalyze this action? How could you test whether this solution is effective in causing more Canadians to access and use relevant and unbiased financial advice that is affordable (target outcome)


The way that financial information and options are presented to consumers can have a significant impact on the choices and decisions that they make. Therefore, it is important to use behavioural design and present information in ways that facilitate and motivate consumer financial decisions and practices that are beneficial for the consumer (ecosystem priority). As the financial marketplace moves online, our ability to experiment with how financial information and options are presented is enhanced. Adjustments to the way choices are presented, what is automated, how things are visually presented, and how online user platforms are designed all have the potential to positively impact consumer behaviour. What is a specific way that one or more ecosystem stakeholders could use behavioural insights to design consumer facing materials that improve financial outcomes for Canadians by helping them make good financial decisions (target outcome)? How could you test the effectiveness of this proposed solution to determine if it results in positive financial outcomes for Canadians? 

When identifying a topic for the research paper, choosing one ecosystem priority and one target outcome will allow students to address the issue in depth. Students are encouraged to come up with a specific solution and a targeted research approach for building evidence of its effectiveness and practicality, rather than a general one. For example, “encourage low-income Canadians to use the affordable financial products and services that are available to them” is a general recommendation.  A concrete suggestion for an advertising campaign, educational brochure, pilot intervention, or a mock-up of a new tool for helping Canadians select affordable financial products and services are specific examples of solutions. The ideal entries will be specific rather than general in nature.  

For all submissions, secondary research (e.g., library or online research, reading academic articles from journals, newspapers) is required. 

Students are welcome to use FCAC data sets as primary research in their paper. The anonymized data from the COVID-19 Financial Well-Being Survey as well as FCAC’s 2019 Canadian Financial Capability Survey, and the 2018 Financial Well-being Survey are available upon request (please contact: 

Students are also encouraged to consult other FCAC reports and studies, as well as data and/or examples from the international community to gain a fuller understanding of the measures and issues related to financial literacy and financial well-being. 


(1) Applicants must: 

(2) A student may participate in this Competition as an individual or as part of a two-person (maximum) team

Each individual may only submit one entry in the Competition. For instance, if a participant chooses to enter individually, then the participant cannot also enter as part of a team. Likewise, a participant cannot be on multiple teams. 

In the case of team entries, the presence of one graduate student in the team will mean that the submission will be considered in the graduate category. 

Category definitions are based on the participant’s student status in the 2023-2024 academic year. For example, if a participant is an undergraduate student from fall 2023 until spring 2024, the participant qualifies in the undergraduate category.

(3) Conformity to Ethical Standards: Academic Institution and the Government of Canada

All papers must satisfy the ethical standards of the submitting author(s)’ academic institution. It is incumbent upon the author(s) to ensure that they have met these requirements, particularly if any human research has been conducted. Human research typically includes any data collected directly from people, including, for instance, data collected via surveys or interviews. 

The submitted papers must conform to Government of Canada publishing requirements.


Research paper: Cover page plus 8 to 10 typed, double spaced pages, 11-pt font (Times New Roman), with 1-inch margins. You may include up to an additional 3 pages of exhibits and appendices. A References page should be located at the end of the research paper but before the additional exhibits and appendices. The Cover page and References page do not count towards the word limit. 

Cover page must contain: Name(s) of individual or team members, respective post-secondary institutions, departments/focus of study, title of research paper, and copyright statement. 

The research paper must include the following in this order

Judging will be conducted by a panel of referees drawn from FCAC staff as well as members of its Research Committee, and points will be allocated in the following manner (see attached grading rubric): 

Background research (30%)

Justification of choice of ecosystem priority and target outcome. This section should include a literature review and discussion of the evidence used to support the choice. 

Research findings and proposed solution / testing (60%)

Solution(s) that flow from the research findings and a description of how the solution is actionable/practical, addresses the selected priority, and will achieve at least one of the desired target outcomes. (30%) 

A discussion of how to test the effectiveness of the proposed solution. This section includes a discussion of the steps that need to be taken to implement and test the solution(s) as well as a description of how the target outcome will be measured. (30%) 

Other factors will be considered, including one or more of the following (10%)

Read the selected papers from the 2021 Building Better Financial Futures Challenge.

Guest speaker and author

Successful participants from each category (undergraduate and graduate) will have their work published on and will be given the opportunity to meet with FCAC staff to learn about the governmental publication process. They will also be given the opportunity to serve as guest speakers to present their work to members of the financial literacy community, and network with governmental officials and other financial literacy stakeholders, as appropriate.  

Honourable mention will be noted in each category. Runners-up who are given the distinction of honorable mention may also be given the opportunity to have their reports published on 


The competition will open for submissions on September 1, 2023. The deadline to submit papers is April 30, 2024.

Submitting your paper

The submissions should be sent by completing the Research Paper Submission Form.


For more information, please contact FCAC:

Financial Consumer Agency of Canada / Government of Canada
427 Laurier Avenue West, 5th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1R 1B9


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