The Interac Collision Course: A Showcase of Fintech Innovation

As Collision kicks off in Toronto, opportunities for tech companies across the world to showcase exactly why they have what it takes to become the next billion-dollar venture do too. With this being the first year Collision calls Toronto home, it also offers a unique opportunity for the world to get a glimpse of what Canadian tech has created in its last half-decade of exponential growth.

Firstly, forget the “Canada is having a moment” thought—Canada is the clear leader in several emerging industries and has created more tech jobs in the last year than anywhere in North America. The country’s tech leaders are infiltrating every major industry on the planet, and Interac has a unique role in this spread of Canadian ingenuity. As one of the largest payment networks in the country and a major innovation enabler within the financial industry, they have been fuelling success and pushing boundaries for over 35 years. They have 15 million active monthly users, which is a huge chunk of the population considering Canada is their only market.

However, it’s that last qualifier that presents Interac with an amazing opportunity to make their presence at Collision count. The payments company will have a large on-site presence and will feature executives and top innovators throughout the conference delivering roundtables, keynotes, demos, and intimate conversations. As a company that already dominates their market, Collision presents a favorable chance to demonstrate everything Interac has learned about governance, authentication, and the payments world in general to the international tech community.

A global case study

There are not a lot of companies like Interac in the world. They are a household name within their Canada, but relatively unknown outside of North America. At home, they build and deliver industry-leading solutions, working with emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and digital ID.

The deep network lnterac operates connects every single major financial institution in the country, and then to their customers through well-known products like INTERAC e-transfer, INTERAC Flash, and INTERAC Debit. This vast interoperable network also provides layers of security and governance matched only by the biggest credit card companies in the world, and even then, lnterac has the ability to work faster and smarter due to their size and contained reach.

“We can be a global case study for other regions that may look at us as a company who has been around for over 35 years, that has great domestic scale, and is able to move the needle significantly in their market,” says Oscar Roque, a AVP of innovation, research and emerging solutions at Interac. ”It sets the stage for how other regions can maybe take that as a case study and apply it to their ecosystem.”

Finding ways to apply an Interac solution to any country or financial company’s ecosystem will not be difficult. At any one moment, the Interac innovation labs and new ventures team is working on several proofs of concept, and they have the ability to scale that up to an MVP and even begin to commercialize it.

One of the most interesting projects so far is one that can only be offered by a company like Interac. Roque and his team are using blockchain and partnering with IBM and an energy utility organization to incentivize citizens to save energy and consider the environment.

“We can actually broaden transactions out to enable organizations like utility companies to be able to issue real-time incentives to Canadians when they perform a certain desired behavior,” says Roque.

If a person is using solar cells and batteries at their home, they can use this Interac pilot project to sell back excess energy to the grid and be rewarded with real-time incentives in the form of Canadian dollars that can then be spent anywhere lnterac is accepted, which is essentially anywhere in Canada. This gives utility companies another way to connect and communicate with their customers and opens up better ways to control and improve energy consumption. In the future, electric car users may be asked by their utility company to charge at an off-peak hour, and if they do so, will be rewarded.

Users can earn read dollars enabled through Interac.
Users can earn real dollars enabled through Interac.

These kinds of projects are evolving the general understanding of what a transaction can be. It’s no longer simply an exchange of money. Transactions can incentivize good behavior, leading to increased environmentalism or other benefits, all through the power of a ubiquitous network like Interac. In fact, it wouldn’t really be possible with any other network, because to facilitate something like this with real adoption, there needs to be trust and security, a deep network to scale the project, and a tangible way to spend those incentivized rewards. Interac has all three.

“It’s innovation with social purpose,” says Roque. “It’s not only about finances, but about financial wellbeing. How can we positively impact the lives of Canadians while going beyond payments?”

A demo of this proof of concept, along with others, will be on display at Collision, inviting the international tech community to see what it takes to step beyond the traditional definition of transactions.

Lighting the beacon

Projects like these are an interesting way to place Interac within the broader spectrum of financial companies taking real steps forward to help customers protect and spend their money. An incentivized blockchain project or a fund transfer concept are amazing ways to highlight innovation, but Interac feels most at home when it comes to building authentication and evolving the way identity is managed in a financial ecosystem.

To further demonstrate this, Interac will explore what digital ID means to Canadians and Collision attendees through on-site demos and discussions. This offers the best chance for the international community to really understand just how important a role Interac plays within Canada’s financial ecosystem.

“Although Interac is a Canadian company, we’re like a beacon to the rest of the world in the debit network space,” says Neil Butters, head of digital ID of the Interac innovation team.

“We’re leaders in fraud mitigation, and the message that we want the world to know is that we’re capable of so many things, and that presence and brand recognition as the number one most trusted financial services brand in Canada is something that governments and the private sector can lean on as we develop solutions for the everyday consumer.”

Hammering that notion home is one of the key reasons Interac has a major presence at Collision. Many of the discussions and roundtables Interac executives and innovators will take part in look to dissect the real ties between payments innovation and security authentication, a topic Interac can literally lead the discussion on.

Roque will be leading a roundtable, talking about the potential for open banking in Canada.

“For us specifically, we can showcase how we’ve been around for 35 years, and organizations like ours can effectively innovate and drive change in a market like Canada,” says Roque. “It’s really interesting on that global scale. It’s going to be great to hear all of these different perspectives and make a Canadian mold of that.”

Debbie Gamble, chief officer innovation labs and new ventures at Interac, will be leading her own panel discussing how the currency of our digital future is trust–a topic that is more relevant than ever.

“With the pace of technological evolution, my view is that trust really is going to be that currency of the future,” says Gamble. “Data is just one element, but it’s a very important element. It really comes down to this notion of organizations like us working hard to ensure that we continue to have the confidence of Canadians. Trust is a very important element to the DNA of who we are, but it’s also an important element as we look at reimagining the future.”

“We just need to reiterate who we are,” Gamble continues. “Collision is a more international audience, so our goal is to continue to elevate that profile and share who we are and how we approach the market.”

lnterac CEO Mark O’Connell will also be on-hand at Collision talking through the future of global payments. It will round out exactly what his goal is at the conference: To showcase how lnterac is definitely not a bank, and definitely not a startup. They are a leading fintech that is shaping the future of digital transactions within Canada, and the tech leaders of the world can learn a thing or two from best practices pioneered.

Interac will also engage new founders in addition to the community that empowered them to become a leader in the space. They are working with the Upside Foundation, an organization that brings the Canadian tech founders together to do good by embedding giving back into the DNA of their company. Upside and Interac will host an event to connect startups with industry leaders, all with the effort to kickstart growth.

“We’re honored to have the support of industry pioneer Interac—Canada’s original homegrown fintech success story—as we work to embed social responsibility for the tech community across the country,” says Jennifer Couldrey, the executive director of the Upside Foundation. “With their support, we are scaling our operations to engage hundreds of the newest companies across Canada who are poised for impact. The Interac commitment to supporting scaling tech companies is deeply felt in the community through their partnership with us.”

Interac will also work with The Knowledge Society to expose students to important real-world problems through a corporate challenge. Two students will win summer internships and shadow their mentors throughout the conference.

On a Collision course

For Interac, Collision is where a national leader will meet an international audience full of ideas and innovation. The payments company relies on partnerships in order to operate, and there is no better place to foster those partnerships than the largest tech conference in North America.

These will come in several different ways, from the local to the international. The former might happen during scheduled mentor hours and a case study Interac is hosting with food delivery company Skip the Dishes. But it’s those roundtables, keynotes and demos that will give Interac the chance to find new partners and learn how they can improve while also building up their own network.

“Collision is amazing for us as Canadians,” says Gamble. “This is not even in our backyard, it’s our front garden. We are super excited to showcase all that is amazing about the fintech industry in Canada, and we’re really super excited to showcase what we bring to the market.”

“We are super happy to engage in the conversation—our company relies on collaboration. We are positioned to support and engage Canadians, so Collision being in our front garden, we get to talk to new and older partners and see what kind of value we can deliver. It’s amazing.”

Techvibes is an Official Media Partner of Interac.