Why Canada’s Financial Technology Space Needs a United Voice

Financial technology, or fintech, is a sector that continues to gain momentum worldwide, as startups seek to disrupt financial services to make them faster, cheaper, and more accessible to everyone.

Here in Canada, fintech is heating up in both Vancouver and Toronto, as well as in other parts of the country.

While Canada has a proud history of technology innovation, financial hubs from the UK, Singapore, Israel, and Australia have received global recognition for its leadership in the fintech space. With government funding allocated to the fintech industry, these financial hubs are able to offer a new platform for collaboration, to enhance productivity and innovation, develop strategic partnerships, and identify market opportunities.

“It’s time for Canada to take its game to the next level and bring its homegrown fintech community together under one roof,” said Stephen Ufford, founder of Trulioo, a Vancouver startup that recently raised $15 million in financing—marking the largest Canadian fintech round in 2015.

“Uniting fintechs in Canada will improve innovation and collaboration between government and public and private sectors,” Ufford added. “Fintech presents a golden opportunity for our country and it’s important that we unite and work together to build a sustainable ecosystem that nurtures products and services with competitive advantages for the international market.”

Christine Duhaime, founder and executive director of the Digital Finance Institute (DFI) in Vancouver, sees lack of structure and collaboration at a national level as a challenge for Canadian fintech that must be overcome.

“We want to encourage fintech companies to collaborate instead of operating in silos,” said Duhaime. “There’s definitely a lack of collaboration between businesses that aren’t necessarily competing for the same customers.”

The DFI is spearheading a new initiative to create the Fintech Association of Canada (FAC). This new association will provide a neutral voice to support fintech all across Canada. The inspiration for the FAC came about as the result of a roundtable discussion organized by the DFI and the Canadian Payments Association on September 29 last year. The initiative aims to encourage industry dialogue on integration and partnerships and strengthen international relationships for fintechs in Canada.

New fintech startups are emerging across the country in areas not traditionally associated with having strong financial centers, such as Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and the Prairies. It’s precisely in those regions where out-of-the-box thinking can lead to greater success for Canada’s rapidly developing fintech sector. The FAC will be a facilitator that creates opportunities for fintech meetings of the minds from coast to coast to foster further innovation and creativity.

“Canada has a great talent pool, financial and regulatory infrastructure, and an environment that helps foster innovative thinking,” noted Rod Hsu, CEO of nTrust. “The fact that the two major hubs are on opposite sides of the country makes unifying the movement even more important.”

Ultimately, Duhaime wants to see Canada create its own fintech ecosystem that can build, support and promote up-and-coming startups to help the country’s economic growth flourish in new markets with new capabilities and across all borders.

“Other countries have had tremendous success with their grassroots startup initiatives,” Duhaime said. “I want to create a working fintech spaces in Canada, where fintech startups can hang out and innovate, like what Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Israel already have in place.”

While the project to create the FAC is still mostly operating at the grassroots level, the DFI is seeking to partner with local and regional fintech groups across the country in order to have the greatest impact on a national level.

The DFI will be hosting Fintech 2016: The Future of Fintech in Canada, its third fintech conference, on April 14th at the Vancouver Club. Discussion topics will include changes in regulatory environment, evolving payment landscape, securing public and private funds, challenges with cross-border compliance, and innovators and disruptors in fintech.

On the evening of April 13th, the DFI and McCarthy Tetrault, Canada’s first national law firm, will be hosting a cocktail party in Vancouver to officially launch the FinTech Association of Canada, with support from Trulioo and several leading FinTech companies.  The event is open to everyone.

To show your support for a Fintech Association in Canada, you can submit a letter of support to dfi@trulioo.com.