Contributing to Canadians’ ability to make better financial decisions is our marker for success, and we believe there are many ways we realized that in 2010–11.
"We are having a positive impact on real lives—one student, one teacher, one consumer, one community at a time."
Were there big trends or developments that affected FCAC and its work during 2010–11?
Yes. I will highlight three of them:
First, the momentum for financial literacy—a cause long championed by FCAC—continued to accelerate. Several provinces are exploring or pressing ahead with plans to integrate financial literacy within their educational curricula, while the federally appointed Task Force on Financial Literacy presented its recommendations for a national strategy on the issue. Combined, these developments sparked heightened interest in FCAC’s approach to financial literacy and our expertise in the area. I’m delighted that the priorities outlined by the Task Force in its final report reflect the very same principles that have guided FCAC’s work since its inception in 2001.
Second, for individual Canadians, personal money management and a tough economy continued to pose challenges. We responded by offering unbiased financial information and guidance. For example, to assist first-time home buyers and owners renewing their mortgages, we launched a public awareness campaign featuring ads in public transit that drew attention to FCAC’s suite of mortgage resources. We also teamed up with members of the real estate industry to prepare financial information further targeting these Canadians.
Third, under legislation passed last year, the federal government gave FCAC responsibility for overseeing payment card network operators, such as Visa, MasterCard and Interac. In addition, the Agency took on an expanded research function. Equipped with a more powerful “radar” on issues affecting financial consumers, we’ll be able to better adapt our financial education initiatives to the needs of Canadians and provide more timely and valuable intelligence to the federal government.
What were key achievements over the past year?
Contributing to Canadians’ ability to make better financial decisions is our marker for success, and we believe there are many ways we realized that in 2010–11. Let me note a few specific achievements:
Are you satisfied with FCAC’s overall performance in 2010–11?
Absolutely. We worked hard to empower Canadian financial consumers through education, while promoting consumer-centred compliance on the part of federally regulated financial entities.
It is rewarding to know that so many Canadians are taking advantage of FCAC resources, including The City, Web-based seminars for teachers and our many consumer publications. But I’m truly moved by the hundreds of positive letters, emails and comments we receive from people who have benefited. “Wonderful resource!” some say, or “Meets my curriculum needs,” or “I walked away with a wealth of information that I will actually use.” Such responses demonstrate that we are having a positive impact on real lives—one student, one teacher, one consumer, one community at a time—through all the programs we deliver or support.
Were there any challenges?
As a small agency, we face the ongoing challenge of visibility—making Canadians aware of who we are, what we do and how our programs can benefit them. We made continued progress by conducting a range of marketing activities, along with targeted media and community outreach campaigns. Our partners also actively spread the word. Still, we have a way to go to make FCAC a household name.
Looking ahead to 2011–12, what should Canadians expect from FCAC?
This is an enormously exciting time for FCAC. Building on the foundation we’ve put in place, we will find more ways to ensure that all Canadians have access to the financial information they need, when they need it. That means tailoring our resources to different groups, broadening our partnership network to reach new target audiences and leveraging social networking, through a presence on Twitter and YouTube, to engage financial consumers in a way we couldn’t before. As a government organization, we have a lot of credibility. We are known for providing trustworthy and unbiased financial information.
With a new research team in place, we will undertake several projects, including a study of behavioural factors that influence financial decision making and a review of emerging trends in consumer finance, such as mobile payments. The findings will enable us to focus first on consumer education and then on compliance needs.
Also on our agenda is ensuring that financial institutions adhere to clear communications principles. We’ll be conducting an industry-wide review of financial institutions’ internal procedures for developing information materials and disclosure documents. The aim is to assess the extent to which institutions have implemented the key principles of clear and simple language.
Any closing words?
In the popular book I Love Money, Canadian author David Campbell Lester argues that people can improve their financial well-being by developing a personal, positive relationship with their money. There are many ways to do that. In my view, education is a powerful tool, and that’s exactly our raison d’être at FCAC. I invite Canadians to make use of our free learning tools and resources to strengthen their relationship with money.
In 2011–12, the Agency celebrates an important milestone: 10 years of operation. During our first decade, FCAC established itself as a global leader in the education and protection of financial consumers. We will strengthen that legacy in years to come.
I am extremely proud of my entire team. To them, I say thank you for your dedication and hard work. Our accomplishments are not the result of any single initiative or group within FCAC, but rather the collective efforts of all.
I also want to acknowledge our many external partners and relationships, which provide the needed reach and support for FCAC initiatives at the grassroots level. Together we are building a more financially literate Canada and contributing to a strong, healthy financial marketplace.