Good afternoon. We are very pleased to be here today representing the Canadian Bankers Association and our 54 members, which includes domestic banks, foreign bank subsidiaries and foreign bank branches operating in Canada.

Financial literacy is important to the CBA and our members because financially literate Canadians are a vital part of a sound banking system, and a sound banking system is a cornerstone of a sound national economy.

The federal Task Force on Financial Literacy defined financial literacy as “having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.”

Banks know that Canadians who make healthy, long-term financial decisions not only help to build their own financial security, but are also good for the Canadian economy as a whole.

At the same time, a lack of knowledge and understanding of the risks and benefits of financial products and services can lead to problems both for individuals and the broader economy.

The CBA and its members have been dedicated to boosting financial literacy levels for many years. For example, the CBA has brought financial literacy to Canadians through our high school seminar program called YourMoney, which has taught more than 215,000 senior high school students about budgeting, borrowing, saving, investing, and protecting themselves from financial fraud.

This non-commercial seminar uses bankers from the local community who go into the classroom and share their expertise to teach young Canadians about responsible money management. The CBA developed the program in collaboration with the federal financial consumer regulator, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Banks are also active in financial literacy every day, during their interactions with millions of Canadians who turn to banks for products, services and advice to help them save, plan for retirement, start businesses and buy homes.

Banks work hard to provide Canadians with a wealth of educational material, advice, information, tools and services geared to helping them make the best financial choices.

Banks in Canada are also leaders in supporting financial literacy activities and initiatives in communities across Canada. A few examples of programs and partnerships that banks lead or support include:

  • Momentum Community Economic Development Society — a Calgary-based money management program that delivers workshops to help individuals take control of their personal finances.
  • Clearfacts.ca – a financial literacy website that offers information for families, home-owners, students and business owners.
  • Junior Achievement — these are popular programs that are offered in schools and teach money management business and entrepreneurship skills, and
  • SEDI or the Social and Enterprise Development Innovations group which works with community groups nationwide to expand economic opportunity for Canadians living in poverty through program and policy innovation.

Banks, and the CBA, also provide the public with information on fraud to raise awareness about how various types of fraud are committed, what banks do to protect customers and how consumers can protect themselves from being victimized.

In addition, for more than 40 years, banks have been strong supporters — providing both financial support and many hours of volunteer employee time — of not-for-profit credit counselling agencies and the good work that they do to help Canadians learn better money management skills.

The banking industry recognizes that strengthening the financial literacy of Canadians requires the involvement of many other players, including government. The federal government has taken a leadership role with its Task Force, and with Bill C-28 which includes the creation of a Financial Literacy Leader. The CBA will be pleased to work cooperatively with the new Financial Literacy Leader. Indeed, in our submission to the Task Force, we made several recommendations that we think could be undertaken by the Financial Leader’s office.

We recommended that a national strategy for financial literacy be established that includes research into the financial literacy needs of Canadians. This will help determine what actions may be required, and to measure progress going forward.

We also recommended that a national strategy make teaching financial education in the public school system mandatory. We believe that it would be appropriate for the Financial Literacy Leader to work with all levels of government to ensure that all young Canadians get a strong foundation in financial education before they graduate from high school.

In addition, we suggested that the federal government create and promote a single portal (like Service Canada) for all financial literacy activities and organizations. This would help facilitate sharing of best practices and foster collaboration among organizations and also give Canadians a one-stop location to help them find resources in their community.

In conclusion, the CBA and our members strongly support the establishment of a Financial Literacy Leader for Canada and we look forward to working with the leader once appointed.

We look forward to your questions. Thank you.